While in-person classes may be suspended due to COVID-19 teachers across the South Cariboo are working diligently to ensure their students’ education continues.
When classes were first suspended and then cancelled in early March, it was said that students had been granted a free pass on to the next grade. However, this is far from the case as school districts across the province, like SD27, have moved to fill the gap with online-based course work.
At Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School, teachers are at school and working hard to come up with personalized lesson plans for each of the school’s 500 students, according to principal Geoff Butcher. Since the end of Spring Break near the end of March Butcher said he and his staff have been developing resources for their students to use in an online format.
These include Moodle and Microsoft Teams along with sending a bunch of emails to parents and students about the new systems. Butcher said their approach has been based on the needs of their students and their parents, as laid out in survey SD27 conducted in March.
“The teachers are trying to put together more or less personalized learning plans for every student in their classes and corresponding with their families at this point now to deliver the material either online or paper-based,” Butcher said.
Most teachers are sticking to email or other forms of online communication but in some cases, they are using the mailbox outside the school to pass on material to students without reliable internet access, Butcher said. Overall, there’s been some birthing pains as they’ve put these new courses together, he added, as teachers learn new programs and technology on the fly.
Butcher said that the main goal of both him and his staff is the same as B.C.’s Ministry of Education, which is the continuation of learning. Their goal is to make sure every student is able to work through their remaining course load for the year and emerge successfully at the end of the scholastic year. Finding ways to best reach each of their students and how best to deliver the curriculum is on top of everyone’s minds.
This is especially important for the Grade 12 class, Butcher said, because if they’re going on to post-secondary there are certain things they’ll need to know that will contribute to their future success. Likewise, for other grades, it’s important to learn the concepts they’ll need to build off of when they return to school, hopefully, in September.
“The thing about school is it’s a very routine-based environment. When you have no routine it’s important that the school continues to provide at home for them a routine that’s not just about schooling but it’s about maintaining vigilance about learning so they know we’re still there and still want to support them,” Butcher said.
Butcher himself has spent most of these past weeks coordinating these efforts with his teachers and finding resources for them to use. He’s also responsible for overseeing health and safety in the COVID-19 environment and managing the return of belongings to students who left them behind over Spring Break.
“Challenges are always enjoyable things,” Butcher said, remarking that in many ways they’re having to learn a whole new way of teaching on the fly.
When it comes to parents and students finding success during the COVID-19 shutdown, Butcher advises maintaining close and strong communication with teachers and to find routines that work for each student. Parental support will be key to success, he said, in the longterm. The best way to touch base with teachers is via email, Butcher said, which teachers have already done by reaching out to each student’s SD27 email.
“I think that one thing that both staff and parents need to know is that they need to engage in a level of patience. At the start, people are going to want to be going and doing what they need to do and it’s going to take a while to work the bugs out and get the system running,” Butcher said.