Updated: Jun 11, 2020
School closures have put many families in a challenging situation. While most parents are trying their best to make the most of the time home with their children, many are feeling the compounding, exhausting and overwhelming effects of managing work responsibilities and financial uncertainty while also balancing both full-time parenting and trying to be the primary educator for their children under extraordinary circumstances.
It’s understandable then, that our most frequently asked question from parents right now is whether our school will open with regular face-to-face instruction in September given the uncertainty surrounding COVID19.
On March 16, 2020, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw signed an order prohibiting student attendance at any educational setting in Alberta until further notice. At this point, we do not know when that order will be lifted but school administrators and educators in Alberta have been told that schools will not re-open prior to summer break. So, what about September?
UPDATE June 10: While we still don’t know which of the following three scenarios will be in place for schools in Alberta in September yet, the Minister of Education has emphasized that the goal is to move toward "near-normal" operations. Some of the larger school boards are discussing the implementation of a modified schedule or a part-time program in September so that there are not so many students in the building at one time. Others are considering a continuation of online programming through the first term.
Here is how our school fits into the three proposed scenarios...
Scenario 1: First of all, if the restrictions imposed on educational settings are lifted in August, our plan is to open fully with an increase in hand-washing, cleaning and a revised illness policy. Perhaps more than ever before, we know that by September children will need face-to-face connection with empathetic teachers, opportunities for social-emotional learning among friends and to feel a sense of belonging within their school community.
As a very small school with an average class size of 12, a lot of space indoors and a focus on spending a significant portion of each day outdoors, we feel that the risks of opening our school to students are significantly lower than in the larger schools where students spend much more of their time indoors with nearly twice as many students in each classroom (and where hundreds or even thousands of people are in the building every day).
If there are still some restrictions in place in September, we will still try our best to move forward as planned under one of the following scenarios:
Scenario 2: On June 10th, the Minister of Education stated that under scenario two schools may offer face-to-face instruction in cohorts of 15 students with some additional health and safety measures in place. Due to the fact that we have an average class size of 12, this means we can still offer our regular program of full-time, in-school classes for our students. We also expect to have less than 50 students in the entire school in our first year and we would spend nearly all of our time in our outdoor learning spaces. Additionally, we will be increasing our indoor cleaning standards to meet and exceed the recommended COVID19 protocols and would have a strict illness policy with an online/remote learning option for those who chose to stay at home or needed to due to quarantine requirements. *Please note: Masks are not mandatory in either scenario and are generally not recommended for young children according to the current Alberta Health Guidelines.
Scenario 3: In the unlikely event that all educational settings are still prohibited in September or if we are forced to close again mid-year for safety reasons, we would offer a creative program of daily online Zoom classes and project-based assignments that are led by our teachers. Many of the other independent and private schools in the city have adapted very quickly and are currently offering very successful online programs. This would not be a matter of sending a list of homework for you to supervise, it would be a carefully crafted and individualized online program designed just for your student(s) with feedback and daily support from our teachers. Our goal would be to return to in-school classes as soon as it was safe to do so. Again, the small school and small class sizes makes this a much easier task.
In our last meeting, the Deputy Minister of Education stated that independent schools will have a certain level of flexibility and autonomy over how they operate in September and will largely be in charge of their own health and safety measures. Our plans will consider both the mental and physical health of our students and staff and we will do all we can to ensure that the return to school is as "normal", safe and welcoming as possible for everyone involved.
Calgary Changemaker School is built on a foundation of innovation and compassion which will be among the most needed and necessary skill sets as we as a society adapt to the changes required from this historical time.
Kristina Kraychy, Head of School
Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) order 01-2020 : 2020 COVID-19 response
March 16, 2020