Saskatchewan

Regina Catholic Schools moving to remote learning next week

Regina Catholic Schools is following the lead of Regina Public Schools and moving to remote learning for all students from Dec. 14 to Jan. 8.

Decision follows Regina Public Schools announcements Monday

Both Regina Public Schools and Regina Catholic Schools say they will be shifting to remote learning starting Monday, Dec. 14. (Radio-Canada)

Regina Catholic Schools is following the lead of Regina Public Schools and moving to remote learning for all students in pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 from Dec. 14 to Jan. 8.

Twylla West, communications and media co-ordinator for Regina Catholic Schools, said the decision was made independently of Regina Public Schools, but that there might be a benefit to both divisions going this route.

"Perhaps with the whole city moving to that level of isolation and remote learning, perhaps that will have a greater chance at impacting the outcomes."

West said it wasn't an easy decision for the division.

"I've never watched a group of trustees deliberate for so long or have such heartbreaking conversations about making a decision," she said.

West said staffing was a huge concern, not only because of staff isolating and off sick, but because employees are also tasked with contact tracing, which puts a further strain on their time.

Other factors included increased COVID-19 transmission rates in Regina, fear and anxiety leading to decreased student attendance, growing concerns about contacting families regarding isolation and alignment with public health directives.

Not an extended Christmas break

West said this remote learning is different than the remote learning done in March because this time, the division was prepared.

"We've been anticipating that this could be a move that needed to be made and it could be a move that needed to be made very quickly," she said. "So all of our teachers have been working with their students on using those platforms."

West said the offering in the spring was "supplemental learning," but this time the learning is mandatory and students will be expected to attend like a regular school day.

The division said in a release that students will be provided with paper copies to help cut down on screen time, and students in specialized programming may remain at Level 2 (face-to-face with masks), or Level 3 (a hybrid of face-to-face and remote learning).

'Oh, no, not again'

Crystal Nieviadomy is the mother to three elementary school students in Regina. She says the first thing she thought when she heard Regina Public Schools was moving to remote learning was, "Oh, no, not again," but despite the challenges she supports the school division's decision.

Starting next week, all students in the division will be learning from home until Jan. 11, a letter from the school board said.

Nieviadomy has four children, three of whom are in elementary school — grades one, three and five.

"They all need some level of help to understand or to, you know, navigate through the assignments," she said.

Both she and her husband work outside the home, though she'll be working from home while her kids are remote learning.

She said she's lucky her workplace is flexible, but she knows that's not the case for everyone.

"There's a whole bunch of families that ... this juggling is going to be very difficult. There's a lot of people who don't have the luxury of being able to do their jobs remotely or they may not have family in the city that can help."

Regina schools needed a 'reset'

Nieviadomy said she supports the school division's decision.

"I thought that the way that the communication was laid out, it highlighted how complex the situation is and that, you know, there were a lot of factors that went into making this decision," she said. "It kind of helped put it into perspective."

As of Dec. 7, 89 people in Regina Public Schools — 63 students and 26 staff — have tested positive for COVID-19, with 39 of 57 schools in the division affected, according to the letter.

There have also been nearly 25 per cent more staff absences than in an average year, according to the letter, making it increasingly difficult to safely run schools.

She said her kids' school has seen three classrooms closed over recent weeks, and that many staff and students have either been absent due to illness or isolating while waiting for test results.

"Regina needed to be given a chance to have a bit of a reset," she said. "I hope that what it does is it just calms the waters a bit so that come January, the kids can get back into the classroom, because that's where they want to be."

'Ahead of the game' compared to spring remote learning

The silver lining is that thanks to the Christmas break, parents will only have to juggle about two weeks of remote learning, Nieviadomy said.

It's also going to be easier this time around, because it's not totally new like it was in the spring.

"As parents, we don't have that steep learning curve of … how do these programs work, how do we help our kids to understand how to submit assignments or play around with the technology?"

Workplaces, too, have a better idea of how to manage employees working from home.

"I think that the feeling of complete panic that everybody had in the spring, it may not be to the same level right now," she said.

"There's some feeling of, we're ahead of the game compared to where we were in the spring, but it doesn't make it any less difficult for families to juggle."

Lessons learned

Nieviadomy said she also learned a lot about how to help her kids with school the first time around.

"There's little things that I picked up," she said. "What scenarios stress them out, what kinds of environments they need to have to be able to be productive, what times of day they are able to focus more on the work."

One of the biggest lessons she learned was to be flexible.

"Some of the assignments may not get done in what would be a typical classroom day between 9:00 and 3:30," she said. "This is not a normal routine for us. It's not a normal routine for my workday either."

Both she and her children are already looking forward to getting back to school in the new year, though.

"A month feels like a lifetime to the kids who were so thrilled to get back to the regular school day," she said.

(CBC News Graphics)

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With files from Nicholas Frew

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