By Hunter Cresswell
Chelsea Elementary School has only been back in session with physical classes for about a week, and despite staff and administration being under the gun to reopen with little notice from the Quebec government, one Chelsea parent said she’s hearing nothing but positive feedback about how things are being run at the school from parents who have sent their children back.
“The kids who are going to school are very well taken care of,” said Chelsea Elementary School Home and School Association member and parent Amanda DeGrace. “The teachers and administrators were so prepared for it. They were working for hours and hours in the last weeks.”
But that doesn’t mean reopening a school is without its challenges.
“The best practices of teaching and learning involve collaboration, but physical distancing makes our most effective teaching strategies technically impossible,” Chelsea Elementary School teacher Jen Bardell wrote in an email. “The most difficult part of my day is definitely trying to ensure the physical distancing of students. While both students and staff are doing their best to follow the guidelines that have been laid out by public health, it requires constant reminders, especially for younger students. With such a small number of students in the classroom, it is manageable to keep them apart, but we are finding outdoor and transition times quite challenging. I have confidence in our ability to adapt, but it is going to take time.”
For DeGrace and her family, what works right now is continued online learning at home for her children.
“We’re in a situation where we can keep the kids at home and continue the distance learning, but if they [the children] pushed to go back, we would have let them,” she said about the recent reopening of schools earlier this month and the decision whether to send children back or finish the semester at home.
When looking ahead at the possibility of sending her children back to physical school in the fall she said, “At this point, it’s not an appealing option to us.”
The Quebec government recently proposed several ideas for holding school this coming school year, including more emphasis on online learning from home, or holding classes on a rotational basis with students attending courses every other day.
DeGrace said that elementary school-age children thrive on routine, so having every other day off would be difficult for them, not to mention the troubles parents would face when trying to organize daycare for their children every other week.
“I think the [day]-on, [day]-off could be challenging,” she said. “We’re hesitant [about sending our children back to school], but things may change quickly. What’s important is each family is supported to choose what fits them.”
“People need to make choices that are best for their families and we need to respect that,” she added.
Western Quebec School Board Director General Mike Dubeau wrote in a May 15 email that the coming school year concerns staff a great deal.
“We are awaiting Ministry of Education directives on this matter and are pressing the point that the sooner we get clear directions, the sooner we can plan,” he wrote. “In the meantime, we are considering various options at the moment, but obviously everything will be dependent on the official directives from Public Health and the Ministry of Education.”