Nfld. & Labrador

School district still waiting for some laptops but ready to transition online, says CEO

Tony Stack says some parts of the province have been taken care of, and more shipments are coming soon.

Tony Stack says larger shipments of Chromebooks are expected in February

Tony Stack, the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District's director of education, says the district is ready to move to online learning if necessary. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

More than four months into the school year, the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District is still waiting for laptops that were to be distributed to students in case the COVID-19 pandemic shut down schools again.

But Tony Stack, CEO and director of education for the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District, says the district is still ready to transition to online learning if necessary, and larger shipments of the computers are expected next month.

"Laptops have been provided to all teachers, and we're awaiting the next iterations of the Chromebooks for Grade 7 to 12 students to move out," he said. 

"We've looked after Labrador, our most remote areas, and we're expecting the next shipment very soon."

While schools are closed in some parts of Canada due to rising COVID-19 numbers, the Newfoundland and Labrador education system has been relatively unscathed so far this school year.

"We've been very fortunate in this province to have such a low prevalence of the virus, and that's due in large measure to our population doing the right thing," Stack told CBC Radio's On The Go. 

"We have the good protocols in place, based on the public health guidance. So we're ready. We've done a lot of professional learning around this with teachers."

Stack said about 2,000 teachers have had additional training on pandemic protocols. While there has been no in-school transmission of the virus, one case cropped up in an elementary school in Deer Lake in November, in a student connected to a case outside the school.

The NLESD is still waiting on shipments of laptops for students in parts of the province. Labrador has been 'taken care of,' according to Stack. (Dawn Gillis)

Plugged-in and unplugged learning

Stack says the school's online learning plan includes a blend of teaching methods.

"Nobody expects younger students, or even students in the higher grades, to be online continuously during a normal five-hour instruction period — 300 minutes a day is not what we're aiming for," he said. 

"It could be a 10-minute check in at the beginning of a period, and then the student interacts offline, [then] the teacher goes and deals with another student one-on-one. Or, you bring the whole group together for a period of time. It doesn't replicate completely what happens in a normal classroom. We never said it would. But it is a much more robust form of interaction than … in the spring."

Stack said there are still areas of concern for areas of the province with limited internet access.

But, he said, devices have already been distributed to students in those areas that allow a student to connect to cellular signals. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from On The Go

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