Teachers not sending work home for students during COVID-19 break
Parents are getting creative about teaching at home, others are using the break to catch up on family time
As the fallout from the coronavirus continues to pile up, parents are left wondering how long the school closure will last and how it might impact their children's education.
The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development is treating the first two weeks of the closure like an extended "snow day" break.
For this week, at least, "there will be no department-mandated educational programming," says department communications officer, Tara Chislett.
She said the education department is "exploring potential options for the future to support student learning from home and minimize disruptions."
In the meantime, some parents are getting creative to keep the learning going at home.
And it doesn't have to be academic learning, said Saint John mom Amanda Thomson. She said parents can teach their children to cook or help them pay attention to current events.
She bought canvases so her two children can take advantage of a local artist's free classes live on Facebook.
"It doesn't really have to be something that they're currently doing in school," Thomson said. "There are other things that you can do with them."
She said the break is also a good opportunity to catch up on "family time" and other activities that get bumped by school and sports activities.
"Right now, since everything has been cancelled, you have so much time to do the things that you never have time for," said Thomson, "And you have their undivided attention because you don't have to go running to a sporting event or another activity."
While she wasn't insisting that her children continue their school work, Monday morning started with her 12-year-old son joining some of his school friends in an online group chat where they worked on some math problems and talked about planets, gravity and Greek gods.
For anyone interested in picking up textbooks or anything else that may have been left behind, they're out of luck for a while.
"At this time, schools are only accessible to those responsible for cleaning," said Chislett. "Other staff and students are required to not enter the buildings."
After the province announced that schools would be cancelled, Mary Ellen Veale, a mother of three in Quispamsis, knew she wasn't going to let her children sit around playing video games for two weeks. The family sat down together on the weekend and came up with a plan for the two-week break.
While Veale found some great online resources to keep her two school-aged children learning, she doesn't want the break to be focused on academics.
"Don't focus so much on learning and closing the academic gap," she said. "Make it more about spending time with your children and doing a lot of the things that we often don't have time to do because we're so busy."
She said families can go for a walk or play a board game together or take up a new activity, like painting.
"We're looking forward to what the week brings," said Veale.
She said their schedule of events includes family workouts and lots of time outside.
Anglophone School District South superintendent Zoe Watson said the district previously sent home a list of games and "meaningful tasks students could do on storm days, as we often hear this is appreciated by families so the day of learning is not wasted."
Watson said students can also read or keep a journal about their day.
"We know students may not have notebooks, etc. home with them on a storm day, similar to this situation, as the announcement was Friday night," said Watson by email.
On snow days, Watson said students are encouraged to do something for another person, like shovel snow. She said the same "holds true here as maybe a relative or neighbour needs help. This fits well with our focus on being a good citizen."
Watson said parents can also find resources on the district's website to help them talk to their children about the coronavirus.
"We feel this is important as no doubt some children may feel scared," she said.
WATCH: What Premier Blaine Higgs had to say about public schools being cancelled for two weeks starting Monday.
On Monday, Premier Blaine Higgs said teachers are working to set up online programs, in case the closure extends beyond two weeks.
"There are some suggestions that students should be certainly reading… so it's not all about video games," he said.
"It's about keeping active in that regard, but the teachers are actually looking at some online activities and scholastic surveys in both official languages, so that they'll be able to continue learning. I'm pretty encouraged about the preparation that's put in place in that regard."
On Friday, New Brunswick became the third province in Canada to close schools in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
"Our collective goal is to minimize the spread of COVID-19," Higgs told reporters at the time.
He also said public health officials will be monitoring the situation, and the closure could be extended beyond two weeks.