As families across the province sink into new routines, some have taken to calling it the new normal.
But Campbell River School District’s superintendent wants to get one thing straight. There is nothing normal about the way students are currently learning.
“It is not home school and it’s not online,” said Jeremy Morrow, Campbell River School District superintendent. “There really isn’t anything normal about this incredible complexity of providing ongoing educational opportunities for students.”
It’s been more than seven weeks since the B.C. government announced a suspension of in-class instruction at schools. Across the province, districts have been pivoting to provide learning opportunities for students. How those learning opportunities look depend on where you live in the province and beyond that, who your teacher is.
On the ministry’s end, there’s resources available. But the power to customize learning opportunities is really in each family and teacher’s hands.
Considerations from the availability of Internet and devices to access it, to whether or not parents are continuing to work through the pandemic – either from home, or not – add to the complexity of taking learning outside the classroom.
Some students in B.C. are taking part in video conferences with their students and classmates while others are learning with flash drives or hard-copy activity packages.
Most districts in the province had a two-week spring break and some time to formulate a plan.
Campbell River had just a one-week break from March 16 to 22. The in-class teaching announcement came on March 17, leaving the Campbell River School District just four business days to come up with a plan.
Early on, it was about establishing contact between teachers and students. Then came the learning opportunities.
Morrow said that their goal is to get better every week.
“Our teachers have worked flexibly with our parents in determining a level of course materials,” he said. “We’ve had a goal of getting better every week and I believe we’re on that trajectory.”
Morrow said learning opportunities being presented to families are dependent on different factors like the student’s access to technology, what grade they’re studying.
“So there’s not one model that fits all students, which makes sense,” he said, “and we knew going into this continuity of learning, or learning opportunities that we needed to take into consideration the various needs of not only our unique learners, but the unique capacities in each home to support those learning opportunities.”
Morrow said there’s been a balancing act of providing those learning opportunities without overwhelming families.
“We recognize that each of these little learners in their homes is facing the pandemic and they all have unique things that are happening,” he said. “We are aware that we have parents who have lost work; we have parents who are working at home. We have a wide range of needs that each home and each student has.”
Morrow is hopeful the district will continue to improve as questions remain about when in-class instruction may begin again and how it will look.
“It’s an imperfect system,” he said. “We are still working to improve how this works for families, but again really grateful for the work that’s been taken on class by class, student by student in trying to meet the needs of a wide range of learners in a very unusual and uncertain time.”