Regina's COVID-19 education plan marginalizes children without proper access to remote tools

Regina Public Schools' supplemental learning plan is rooted in online learning that requires access to internet and a computer. While the division says it will "strive to create alternate access plans" for families who don't have access to the proper tools, shame is an unacknowledged barrier in the plan.

Shame of acknowledging 'we don't have the resources to participate' an unacknowledged barrier in plan

Kim Korven's daughter is a Grade 9 student in Regina. The province is now working under its remote learning framework, which will allow teaching to continue without a classroom. (Submitted by Kim Korven)

My daughter is a Grade 9 student. On Monday, I was excited when her homeroom teacher emailed a summary of the Regina Public School Board's new Supplemental Learning Plan. I saw this as our opportunity for my daughter to continue learning.

The summary assures the reader that "all students will have the opportunity to continue learning."

It confirms that the plan focuses on online learning. To access these learning opportunities, a family must have internet access and a computer or a smart device. If a family does not, the plan states that it "will strive to create alternate access plans" and advises that teachers will contact families to discuss their situations and learning needs.

There is no guarantee that the Regina Public Schools will create alternate access plans. This is an aspiration, not a promise.

School science project during homeschooling. (Submitted by Kim Korven)

Regina Public Schools characterizes its plan as providing "equitable learning opportunities."

Equitable relates to fairness and justice. I do not see how these learning opportunities are fair.

We live in a world of haves and have nots. This plan reinforces that division. 

If you have internet access and enough smart devices or computers, your children can continue to study so they will be better prepared for school next year. If you do not have internet access at home, you can't.

If you are a single mom with one laptop, working from home, with two school-age children, you can't. Your children will not be able to access this "opportunity to continue learning" in the format adopted by Regina Public Schools.

It's easier for many parents without access to say their children are not interested in learning opportunities than notifying the homeroom teacher that the family needs an "alternate access plan" because doing so results in feelings of shame.

Korven and her family eat a meal together. (Submitted by Kim Korven)

This is the reality of life in our society. It is difficult to say, "we don't have the resources to participate" without feeling shame. Shame is the unseen and unacknowledged barrier to participation. Regina Public Schools ignores this, and by doing so, further marginalizes children living in poverty.

They become less likely to participate in these education opportunities.

Korven's daughter studies at home with pets after students were send home due to COVID concerns. (Submitted by Kim Korven)

I have a cousin who lives in Seattle. She tells me that internet access is being provided by Seattle schools free of charge to families during the COVID-19 crisis. Schools are loaning computers and smart devices to students.

Because internet access is assured, this is an equitable approach to using technology to facilitate learning opportunities. That is fair. Marginalization is minimized.

Regina is not Seattle.

Regina Public Schools could have better served all its students by basing its plan on a more compassionate foundation, by understanding it is dehumanizing for people to have to admit they don't possess the required resources. They should not be put in such a position. The plan should have included their children from the start, without any need for alternate access.

It is not enough to describe this plan as equitable to make it so. Equitable relates to fairness and justice.

It is not an empty word. There is a legalism that equity must be seen to be done. I am not convinced the plan creates an opportunity for all students to continue learning. 

Either stop describing the plan as equitable or make the supplemental learning opportunities truly accessible to all students.

At the very least, our children — all children — deserve honesty.

This column is part of CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.

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Kim Korven lives in Regina with her two children, husband, rescue greyhounds, and cats. She works as a family peace specialist and enjoys playing the ukulele, coaching judo and travelling.

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