There is a mixture of relief, resignation and disappointment on the part of students, parents and teachers as NWT schools return to online learning this week.
On Thursday evening, the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer (OCPHO) issued a public health advisory alerting residents of the NWT that community spread of COVID-19 was evident or imminent in eight communities: Aklavik, Behchokǫ̀ , Dettah, Fort Providence, Hay River, Ndilǫ, Whatì and Yellowknife.
Dr Kami Kandola recommended that schools postpone classroom learning until January 21, when current collection restrictions are expected to end.
On Thursday and Friday, school boards sent out emails and social media notices, informing parents that their schools would be switching to e-learning for at least the next two weeks. This included all schools from the eight communities identified in the public health notice.
All Tłı̨chǫ schools have also switched to distance learning, as has the Ehtseo Ayha school in Délı̨nę. The Beaufort Delta Divisional Education Council said its schools will go online from January 10 to 14.
Expected with an increase in cases
Andrea Sluggett said she expected her children to likely return to distance learning after the holidays, as cases of COVID-19 increased in the past month.
“I told my kids before I left school for the Christmas holidays: bring home your books, take home whatever you will need if you switch to e-learning, because we don’t don’t want to go back to school to get it, ”she said.
Sluggett has four children in schools in Yellowknife, one in grade 10 and triplets in grade 7.
“You can tell that she’s disappointed that she wasn’t getting the things she wanted to do this semester… so that it reflects on her records,” she said.
Learn to learn online
Samantha Stuart is a project manager in the territorial government. But since November 2020, his Yellowknife home has become his office.
She said it was a challenge to help her three children, two in 1st grade and one in 4th grade, spend their school days at home, while she worked from home.
This is especially true when they are all online simultaneously. Stuart needs to make sure that each child has their own device for their online course “and preferably headphones,” she said.
“Sometimes I have a meeting at the same time, so I can’t supervise them.”
She later said she would sometimes get reminders from teachers about her children’s behavioral expectations online.
“No eating, no camera, no playing with toys,” she said. “You just have to take it with a grain of salt because you’re doing the best you can.”
She said online learning was difficult for her children, who miss seeing their friends every day.
“I have a child on the spectrum and his support since entering Grade 1 has declined dramatically when it comes to speech and occupational therapy,” she said. “So not having that extra support for him sometimes is really hard.”
But she acknowledges the alternative is to bring the kids back to class during this latest wave of COVID-19.
“In terms of being at home and not in schools, if we can slow the spread, that’s great,” she said.
Teachers relieved, but want to get back to normal
Matthew Miller, president of the Northwest Territories Teachers Association, said there was some relief from teachers last week, given that many of their students are not yet eligible for get fully vaccinated.
“There are very few professions that we have here in the territories that would see occupancy levels in their workspace, like teachers,” he said. “So when the government says ‘limit to 25 per floor’ and, as a teacher you have 30 in your classroom and hundreds upstairs, I mean, that’s really worrying,” a- he declared.
“Are you wondering if this is a safe environment? Not just for me but for the students? “
Miller said parents are frustrated with the last minute decisions affecting their lives.
“Our teachers are parents too, so they teach at home with sometimes two or three kids also trying to learn,” he said.
“We know teachers want to be with their students in person, but safety needs to be the top priority right now.”
“Heavy dependence” on bandwidth
Miller said the shift to online learning has made schools heavily dependent on Internet bandwidth, highlighting the gap in online learning between large centers and small communities in the NWT.
“Depending on the community you are in, bandwidth can be very expensive and it can be spotty,” he said. “It was not uncommon for some of our schools to lose the Internet [for] up to a week at a time. “
He said teachers are also adapting to online learning, where activities, support and communication are done differently.
“Some of our teachers have never had a full year of normal education, just like some of our students, in three years, never had a full year of normal education.”
It is not only teachers who adjust to the realities of distance learning, but also parents who find how to support their children throughout their learning.
Stuart said she gives her kids goals every day and checks what they need – a break, something to eat, a walk outside – to keep them in good shape. mind to learn.
“[It’s] realizing that they have their own emotions through it and their own grief. [It’s] take it easy. “