There aren’t too many elements of the community affected more by the coronavirus pandemic than the elementary school system.
One Stettler school is adapting quickly to the situation and ensuring not only staff and families are supported, but the entire community too.
Families from the Christ-King Catholic School (CKCS) community are handling the distance learning situation, said one school leader.
“Overall it has definitely been a transition for all involved,” said principal Tara McMillan April 15.
“We have had a few bumps along the way but our families have been awesome in extending patience and understanding as we have got our programming up and running.
Now they are doing a great job in supporting and facilitating their child’s learning.
At the school, we are adamant that although we provide many learning opportunities, we understand that all of our families are in different situations and so they should work at their own pace and complete what they can.
She said teachers have landed on their feet.
“The staff at CKCS has been remarkable in adapting to this new way of teaching,” said the principal.
“I had staff on both ends of the spectrum when we started. Some were very comfortable with technology, different delivery platforms and programs.
Others were a little overwhelmed. However, we came together as a team and just got to work.
“We have had training sessions, collaboration time to share knowledge and resources and we meet every day to ensure all staff members feel supported.
We also troubleshoot together.
At this time teachers are still diligently working on transferring their lessons to a digitized format but we have come a long way in the three weeks of online learning.
“A positive that could be taken from this situation is that it has been a great learning opportunity for our teachers.”
Students still have a Physical Education class too. “We have a Phys Ed specialist in our school, Megan Lozeau,” said McMillan.
“At this time Alberta Education has requested we focus on the core subjects. However, as a bonus to our students, who love Miss Lozeau and would benefit from physical activity while at home, she has been hard at work amongst many other projects developing an online platform that includes lessons and resources that cover a broad range of topics including mental health, physical activity, mindfulness, healthy sleep patterns etc.
“She has videos of herself leading activities, as well as links to other great resources for kids. We plan to roll it out April 20.”
There is still optimism the school year isn’t written off.
“Currently we have not been given a timeline from Alberta Education as to when we will be returning to on-site classes,” said principal McMillan.
“We are planning for the worst but hoping for the best. We have plans for online learning until the end of June but as always we are hoping to be back in school before then.”
This situation has caused some employment problems for the school, including bus drivers, and McMillan encouraged the community to help each other out as best they can.
“In these times there definitely hasn’t been any guarantees,” said the principal.
“It is true that due to recent funding rollbacks, our support staff will be temporarily laid-off at the end of April.
“It will be unfortunate to lose such a valued resource but we look forward to returning to ‘normal’ school as soon as possible so they can return to us.
“In terms of the community, I think it goes for everyone when I say we just all need to support each other as best we can. Our whole community is experiencing these hardships so we need to look out for one another.”
Principal McMillan said CKCS is happy to share their resources with the community at this stressful time.
“We are a small school that is very family oriented,” said McMillan. “So we take care of our families as best we can at all times.
“Right now we are doing as much as we can from afar. Not only are we working to provide quality learning to our kids, but we are trying to support all our families in any other area we can.
“Our door may not be open but they are always welcome to call, email or teleconference for anything, even just a visit.
“Furthermore, this week we have had great news in that our nutrition grant that we received this year to fund our daily breakfast program has been opened to schools to use to support the community and our families.
“This means we will be making monthly donations to the Stettler Food Bank as well as purchasing grocery gift cards for the next three months and distributing them to all our CKCS families,” added principal McMillan.
“It’s one more small way we can help which we are very excited and grateful for.”
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter