'I feel relief': Alberta K-12 students shift to online learning Friday
EDMONTON -- Kids attending school from Kindergarten to Grade 6 are shifting to online learning on Friday, and are scheduled to return to in-person learning after the May long weekend.
Students from Grade 7 - 12 in some COVID-19 hot spots have been online since April 20.
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said in a news conference Wednesday that the shift to online learning for all Alberta students will help minimize the learning loss due to absences from positive COVID-19 cases that required quarantining.
"It also allows our teachers and support staff to access vaccinations that were announced earlier this week and the expansion that we've just heard today," said LaGrange.
Students with disabilities will continue to attend in-person classes.
"I truly hope that this is the last time that we will be in this situation, which is another reason why it is so important, so very important right now, for every Alberta to do their part to stop the spike," said LaGrange.
"To be honest I feel relief," said Edmonton Public School Board chair Estabrooks. "Both as a trustee, as board chair and also as a parent."
"It's tiring, this third wave in particular is being felt really hard by the families in this division."
She says though the division made the request to move Grades 7-12 online was granted two weeks ago, the pressure on the public school system from cases in K-6 was on a trajectory that was not sustainable.
"It is absolutely the right decision."
Estabrooks says a lot is involved in making it a smooth transition for staff, students and parents, including making sure students have access to devices for learning.
"Unfortunately we've been here before, our division knows how to make this pivot, our families know how to make this pivot, still though, it doesn't take away from the fact that this is challenging."
Estabrooks says schools reflect what is happening in the community, when cases are high in schools it means the community transmission is high.
"What's clear to me is we need to see a significant drop in the number of cases in order to safely open up our schools," said Estabrooks.
The importance of in-person learning for kids in K-6 isn't lost on Estabrooks, but she says online learning is what needs to happen to bring the case numbers down.
"This really truly needs to be a circuit breaker."
A lack of substitute teachers was also a big problem with Edmonton public schools, where principals, assistant principals and teachers with spares would try to help fill in for sick teachers.
"Here we are in the final stretch of what has already been a really challenging school year, and it's as if we can't catch a break and I just want to recognize that this is overwhelming for parents," said Estabrooks. "Change is hard. Although we've made this pivot before, it doesn't make it any easier this time."
Students will return to the classroom at Edmonton public schools on May 27.