P.E.I. schools prepared for remote learning, hope to return to the classroom

Officials at both the English and French school boards on P.E.I. say they are prepared to move to online learning if needed but are hopeful students can return to the classroom after the three-day shutdown.

All P.E.I. schools are closed during a three-day period of heightened restrictions

Schools on P.E.I. already have physical distancing policies in place as well as mask-usage and cleaning guidelines. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Officials at both the English and French school boards on P.E.I. say they are prepared to move to online learning if needed but are hopeful students can return to the classroom after the three-day shutdown.

Both school boards confirmed jumping right into online learning on Monday wasn't an option, with the three-day closure announced late Sunday afternoon.

With public exposure warnings in all three counties on the Island, many students and staff could have been lined up for testing.

"Remote learning is not our optimal choice for teaching and learning and none of us left Friday thinking that we would be in this situation Monday morning," said Norbert Carpenter, acting director of the Public Schools Branch.

"With a high number of students and staff being in testing lines and waiting for results, it is not the best path forward today to start with remote learning."

Norbert Carpenter, acting director of the Public Schools Branch, says talks are ongoing with the different unions, teachers and support staff to ensure everyone is prepared for the possibility of more remote learning. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Carpenter said much of the work has been happening behind the scenes to prepare for the switch to online learning if necessary.

Time would be needed for teachers to gather materials from school to bring home — and that is an additional challenge during this closure while public health officials are asking people to stay home.

'It's a process'

Plans have been drawn up to look at how to help families with children who may need individual supports at the school as well as identifying those who may need assistance to ensure that learning from home can happen.

"It's a process. We're certainly ahead, much more prepared to do that now than we were a year ago," said François Rouleau, superintendent for the French school board, adding there will still be an adjustment period.

Plans at this time are for classes to resume in person on Thursday after the three-day "pause" in school work.

Both school boards expect some form of learning — either online or in class — will take place on Thursday. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

The Department of Education and Lifelong Learning will also be offering a healthy meal to students at home for Tuesday and Wednesday.

The meals will be delivered directly to families' homes daily by school bus drivers.

"We realize that this does put many families in a difficult situation because they do depend on breakfast programs, snack programs, as well as our lunch program to feed their family," said Katelyn MacLean, school food program manager.

"So as a department, we're offering a program which would offer each student within a family — and that's K to 12 — a healthy meal for each school day that school will be closed."

The deadline for signing up was 4 p.m. Monday.

If the school closures go beyond Wednesday, the program will likely be reopened.

The meal supports being sent out to Island students who were signed up will happen on Tuesday and Wednesday. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Carpenter points out that none of the cases were at an Island school and that returning to the classroom is the best case scenario.

"We work closely with the Department of Education and Lifelong Learning and when they compacted the curriculum this year, they did so with this in mind," Carpenter said.

"They do have a remote learning guidelines that we will follow so we're confident with good luck and good fortune and the work of [the Chief Public Health Office], that this period of pause will be brief."

One day of class this week

If classes don't resume in person on Thursday, officials with both school boards said, some form of remote schooling will take place that day.

Students who need additional support may be permitted back at school in person, to help with their needs. 

That means, at most, one day of learning this week as students were already scheduled to be off on Friday due to parent teacher meetings — which will be done virtually or by phone — and a professional development day. 

More from CBC P.E.I. 

With files from Jessica Doria-Brown and Angela Walker


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