This was supposed to be the final weekend of the two-week spring break for Prince George kindergarten-Grade 12 students.
But that was before the CODID-19 pandemic sent school officials scrambling to come up with an alternate plan.
Teachers will be going back to work on Monday but schools will remain closed for 12,894 students who will have to prepare for a new reality with the suspension of in-class learning in School District 57.
"Parents cannot go to school with their children on Monday, the doors will be locked," said Prince George District Teachers Association president Joanne Hapke. "The health and safety of everyone is the district's priority.”
School administrators and support staff will be back at schools that day but teachers are not expected to be there and won’t be unless they choose to go in.
Ever since the school closures were announced March 17 on the advice of the provincial health officer, district staff have been busy working with the province on an alternate plan that will allow students to continue learning from home.
In the absence of face-to-face instruction, teachers will utilize online tools and programs so they can connect with their students electronically. Decisions on what works best for each individual classroom won’t be made until teachers return to their jobs.
Not all students in the district have home computers capable of handling the Zoom or Google Classroom software needed for teleconferencing and distance education and some students and teachers who live in more remote rural areas still don’t have adequate internet access.
In its online Frequently Asked Questions on Continuity of Learning document, the education ministry suggests schools can lend computers and other equipment to students who face those connection hurdles. The seven-page document can be found at https://bit.ly/2WJPIJs.
“Teachers will be given the autonomy to focus on what is needed for their own classrooms and for the individual students,” said Hapke. “We are not creating IEPs (individualized education plans) for every child in our classroom. We’re going to have to prioritize needs and create plans based on that.
“What is happening in one classroom in not going to be happening in the next classroom, even though it’s the same grade and same school, because the students are different.”
Health care workers and first responders whose children will need day care as long as schools are closed to them will be asked to register with the school district. Hapke made it clear that teachers will not be participating in any day care centres set up at the schools.
Parents will be expected to take a more active role in guiding their kids through the online processes. If they are at home with younger students during the day they will have to take the place of teachers as supervisors and make sure the work is getting done as well encouraging physical activities to keep them healthy.
But until those lesson plans have been sent by email from the teachers, Hapke advises parents to not get overly concerned about making their own contributions to teaching lesson plans.
“Our biggest message is keeping your children safe and that includes their mental wellness, they’re going to be very anxious,” said Hapke. “We’re in unusual times and this is not a normal return to education. So if parents focus on keeping their children healthy and happy while we are creating our plans, that is the best thing they can be doing right now.
“I’m feeling really secure about our leadership and I’m happy we have the people we do in our senior admin team supporting them.”