There’s no place like home.

That’s how some students and their families throughout the Northwest feel with regard to the fact schools are scheduled to reopen and classroom learning ready to resume come Sept. 8.

To both respect and to address this concern, the Northwest School Division has announced a remote learning plan will be communicated with families once the division has a sense of the number of students who will not be returning this fall.

“While NWSD is committed to a reopening safety plan that meets the requirements of the provincial guidelines and recommendations of the chief medical health officer to ensure student and staff well-being, we understand some families will choose not to send their children to school this fall,” noted NWSD director of education Duane Hauk in a recent letter to parents.

According to Darrell Newton, NWSD superintendent of curriculum and instruction, some students have opted out of the NWSD system and have gone the full home schooling route because of concerns related to COVID-19, while – as of this week – the parents and caregivers of more than 150 students throughout the division have indicated their desire to have their children participate in remote learning provided by the school division.

“That 150 is not equally distributed either, so we’re still trying to get our head around a more definitive number,” Newton said “Schools will be phoning parents this week… We also don’t know what decisions at the provincial level will impact the number of students interested in remote learning. Will the requirement for masks to be worn result in more students not wanting to return to the classroom? These are all things we need to determine.”

One thing that has been announced, however, is at-home learners will be assigned to a “class” taught by a teacher from the NWSD, but not necessarily a teacher from the students’ respective schools.

“There will also be more to it than what the students did from last last spring,” Newton added. “From March until the end of June, it was more so supplementary earning whereas this will be the entire curriculum.”

Newton said the goal is to have everything ready to go by the Sept. 8 start day.

“Timelines are crushing, but we’re doing our best,” he said. “We want to ensure all students enrolled in the Northwest School Division has access to quality education. We’re doing our best to provide that regardless of the format parents choose for their children.”

One parent who considered the remote learning option is Meadow Lake’s Anndrea Welsh who has children entering Kindergarten, as well as Grades 4 and 5 this fall. In the end, however, Welsh chose to home school her kids rather than utilize the NWSD’s remote learning option.

“We are going the home schooling route, so I am the teacher,” Welsh told Northern Pride. “The remote learning that was presumed a couple weeks ago was a lot of time – upward of 160 minutes a day – spent online in a school teams meeting setting. Our Internet is so poor that having three kids online at once was not an option. So, we decided it wouldn’t be a good option for our family.”

Newton, however, said students interested in remote learning who do not have access to the Internet will be provided with curriculum packages.

Meanwhile, the Northern Lights School Division recently announced it will now begin the new school year at Level 3 of the province’s Safe Schools Plan.

“Our top priority continues to be the health and well-being of our children and communities,” NLSD director of education Jason Young said. “We can assure you NLSD, the Ministry of Education and the chief medical health officer are working diligently to ensure the return to the classroom this fall will occur in a safe yet comfortable environment for both students and school staff.”

by Phil Ambroziak