At-home learning extended by two weeks for CBE and CCSD students

CALGARY — The Calgary Board of Education has announced that Alberta Education has approved its request to extend the at-home learning format for students in Grades 7 to 12 until at least May 17 and government officials say the same extension has been granted to the Calgary Catholic School District.

Officials with the CBE shared details of the development in an email to parents of students.

“We are still seeing high numbers of daily COVID-19 cases in our community, and thousands of students and staff continue to isolate,” the CBE writes. “There will be no changes for students in kindergarten to Grade 6, Hub online learning or specialized classes that did not make the move to at-home learning earlier this month.

“This was a difficult decision that was made only after reviewing all of the factors that are contributing to significant disruptions in learning.”

Alberta Education says the same extension of online learning applies to students with the CCSD.

“At the request of the school boards, Alberta Education has approved an extension for students in Grades 7 to 12 in Calgary Public Schools and Calgary Catholic Schools to continue with at-home learning for two additional weeks, starting May 3,” said Nicole Sparrow, spokesperson for Education Minister Adriana LaGrange.

“We know in-classroom learning has significant benefits, and that this difficult news to many students, parents and teachers. However, due to continued operational concerns this extension is necessary to ensure learning can continue.”

In a statement, the CCSD says the decision was made out of a concern for safety.

“This decision has been made in an effort to lower COVID-19 cases and to help deal with ongoing operational issues. We recognize the challenges around online learning and would like to thank our parents, students and staff for their support and cooperation as we navigate through this pandemic.”

This is a breaking news update. The previous version of this story follows.

As the list of outbreaks in Alberta schools continues to grow, some are questioning whether school boards should have Grade 7 to 12 students return to in-person learning next week.

The province announced Tuesday that 712 schools — 29 per cent of schools in Alberta — are on watch or outbreak status, a significant jump from the 453 schools reported on April 14.

On that day, Alberta Education approved the requests of the Calgary Board of Education and Calgary Catholic School District to temporarily shift Grade 7 through 12 students to at-home learning for two weeks.

Calgary school boards confirm they are currently in talks with Alberta Education regarding classroom status.

“We recognize families, staff and students need time to prepare and plan for next week [and we] will share information with families and staff as soon as possible,” the CBE said in a statement to CTV News.

Some Calgary parents say not knowing whether their children can head back into the classroom next week is stressful.

“It’s really frustrating,” said Amanda Piva, who has children in Grade 7 and Grade 9 learning from home right now.

“I understand that they maybe can’t give us the information right away, but it would be nice to know there’s a good plan in place,” she said, admitting she has hesitations about whether she feels comfortable sending her kids back for in-school learning this year at all.

Lisa La Fave’s son is in Grade 8 and has been learning online for nearly two weeks. She says her son wants to be in school to be able to socialize with friends and see his teachers, but she has concerns about him going back.

“It’s scary sending your kid every day into, basically, a raging wildfire and not knowing what’s next,” La Fave said.

“I think that they need to keep them online for the rest of the school year. I think that they need to acknowledge that in-school transmission is a problem and I think that they need to just move all of them online until case numbers come back under control,” she said.

TEACHERS’ UNION CALLING FOR MORE MEASURES

On Monday, the province held an emergency management cabinet committee, but no additional measures for schools were announced.

The Alberta Teachers’ Association calls the lack of progress a “significant irritation.”

“The government must take significant steps immediately to protect the viability of in-person learning,” said ATA president Jason Schilling in a statement, citing the growing number of variants cases of concern in the province.

“The virus has adapted, and yet the government’s plan to protect students and staff largely has not.”

The ATA says there are still concerns over substitute teacher shortages, supports for contact tracing and vaccinations for teachers.

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