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LPSD continues distance education as schools stay closed past June

Lloydminster Public School Division students won’t be returning to their classrooms this school year.

Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Education confirmed the school facilities will stay closed to students for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year. LPSD Director of Education Todd Robinson says they had mixed emotions when the official announcement came.

“There was disappointment and relief from the announcement. Like a lot of children and families, we would have loved to be in an opportunity to be in a position where we could welcome our kids back and recreate a new sense of normal but the reality is that was highly unlikely.”

Schools across the province were shut on March 20 in response to the growing concerns surrounding COVID-19. Since then LPSD school teachers and staff have been providing students with supplemental learning courses through various remote solutions. 

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The answer of whether the distance learning would continue until the end of June was always uncertain until now. Robinson says the continued closure does give LPSD staff and families some stability knowing what to expect for the rest of the school year.

“We plan on continuing exactly as we are right now constantly learning and tweaking to make the product and delivery more engaging but what families see right now is what they will see until the end of June.”

He says he’s heard a lot of positive feedback from parent groups and staff about the success of their supplemental learning program. Robinson says both Lloydminster school divisions saw up to 90 per cent of their students take part in the program.

“It’s a testament to the work of our teachers and our staff with regards to positioning supplemental learning in a way where students wanted to engage and stay connected to their teachers and classmates.”

As far as the idea of celebrating the Grade 12 graduation, the current gathering limits and public health guidelines means it is very unlikely they will be done in person.

“I think in real broad strokes, a virtual form of recognition is what will be in the cards this year.”

Robinson says both LPSD and LCSD are discussing what will be done for graduation and will be contacting parents and graduates soon.

When it comes to how schools will work in the fall, the Government of Saskatchewan’s Response Planning Team is looking at several different options for when students return. How and when classes will resume will depend on the public health orders and restrictions in place. Robinson says September classes could be similar to how they are now.

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“It might be a virtual or distance based program but there is an opportunity that it might be a blended program where students attend part-time and work at home part-time or that certain age groups might attend while others don’t. Those factors are all being considered by the ministry.”

In the meantime, no decision has been made and so Robinson says the division is keeping an eye on how schools are reopening in other parts of the country to help better prepare them for when classes reopen.

“What we’re doing is gathering examples of how different jurisdictions are handling this issue around the country and the world and looking for best practice and things that have gone well. When we get direction from the ministry we will have a bank of strategies or activities to pull from that will allow us to be well equipped.”

The ministry has also indicated there may be a possibility that school divisions could be opened in a staggered way instead of all at the same time.

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