March 29th, 2020

Catholic board starting to roll out learning options

By JEREMY APPEL on March 19, 2020.

jappel@medicinehatnews.com@MHNJeremyAppel

Some teachers from the Medicine Hat Catholic Board of Education have already prepared online lessons for their students in the wake of coronavirus, but superintendent Dwayne Zarichny says a cohesive system will be in place soon for all students, including those who may not have sufficient internet access at home.

He says teachers in all grades are focusing on the core concepts crucial to learning at each level.

“They’re working on paper packages, because some of our students may not have access to all the technology they need to necessarily work with it online,” Zarichny said.

However, most students will do their learning online, particularly in the older grades, he added.

The goal is to “support every student with as much equity as we can,” said Zarichny.

He said the amount of students who require paper lessons vary from school to school.

“In some schools there may be only 10 or 15 students, in others it might be upwards of 20 to 30 per cent of the student population,” Zarichny says. “It really is a case-by-case basis … Just because somebody has an email address, doesn’t mean they would have everything they need to effectively work online.”

He ruled out a blended approach of online learning combined with in-person support, due to the rapidly escalating pandemic.

“We wouldn’t want students to be leaving their homes, where there’s a relative degree of safety, so students would certainly be able to email their teachers or contact them if they have specific suggestions,” Zarichny said.

Teachers are also providing resources to parents for supporting their kids’ learning while they’re at home, “so we can make this transition as smoothly as possible, but at the same time still be available,” he said.

“Every day it appears there are more and more restrictions placed on people, in terms of getting together, it would be a little difficult to encourage students to be meeting face to face. We’re probably looking at encouraging most, if not all of them, to find other ways to connect with our teachers.”

At this point, teachers are doing as much as they can to have students learning as soon as humanly possible.

For example, Zarichny cited a class where the teacher has already recorded herself reading a book for students to listen to, maintaining that teacher-student relationship.

“Some of the things that have been shared are simple things, but big things,” he said. “As the next week progresses, there will be much more coming in terms of resources to support student learning at home.”

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