With three months remaining in the school year, Fort La Bosse teachers, students and parents are facing a whole new means of education since provincial officials, on Monday, ordered schools to suspend classes indefinitely to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Manitoba.
Teachers will still be conducting teaching sessions, assigning work and assessing students’ progress, but the delivery method will be different.
Superintendent Barry Pitz said FLB teachers were already preparing to carry on until the end of April, but now that’s extended to the end of June.
Now, as the novelty of being home wears off, kids face the reality of having to do schoolwork at home, and parents are faced with becoming their teachers … sort of. Classroom teachers are coming to grips with the challenge of new territory – distance teaching.
“I think that by supporting one another, that we can get to the finish line, together.” – Barry Pitz
Here’s how that will look.
“For high school students, there'll be a lot more of online course delivery and the use of technology.”
For middle years - grades five to eight, “There will be a combination of printed material and online education which may be via conference calls, or other means of technology.”
For early years - Kindergarten to Grade 3, much of their material will be printed. Parents will pick up work and drop off completed assignments. The detail will be worked out by school administrators along with each teacher.
“There is no cookie cutter approach to this communication plan,” said Pitz.
Since educators will be relying heavily on technology as the interface between student and teacher, it’s important that teachers know how to make the most of digital tools.
Like other provinces, Manitoba is creating an internet service, a portal for teachers and parents. Even with that, Pitz wants to see the children’s own teachers working with them and their parents.
“The Province is setting up courses for teachers as well, for those that need support around using technologies, for course delivery and for remote learning.”
FLB’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) staff will be working with Internet-based teaching as well.
There’s going to be more demanded of parents, in facilitating home-based school.
Pitz acknowledged, “I don't think it's going to be easy. But these are certainly unprecedented times. I think that by supporting one another, that we can get to the finish line, together,” he said looking toward
Students’ current standings (as of April 13) is their baseline grade. “They will have every opportunity to improve their grades.”
Distance education is not new in FLB schools. In senior years, some courses were already offered via video conferencing and teachers have already shown creative ways of teaching and delivering assignments.
“I witnessed a teacher providing a class by the use of Skype.” A phys-ed class was led via video conferencing. Pitz said that teachers can hold any class session with the students participating.
He says, some families may not have the technology at their disposal to facilitate videoconference classes. “For those that don't have the capabilities, we still have to tackle that,” said Pitz.
He emphasized, “A real concern for me is that people stay safe. And people take… physical distancing seriously, to keep not only our children protected, but their parents and their grandparents… so that we can look forward to the future and everybody can be a part of it.”