SUNDRE - Classes might be cancelled, but the semester is not and educators remain committed to delivering course work.
Last week, River Valley School staff worked to set up new Google Classrooms for every Grade Team in the school, principal Leslie Cooper-Shand announced in a letter to parents.
The Grade Teams, wrote Cooper-Shand, have been working to put together daily lessons that will cover all four core curriculums, as well as other subject matter including art, music, physical education and health.
“It is our plan to have a lesson released each school day morning, until regular classes are able to resume.”
For some of the youngest students, “paper” packages with materials placed in their school supplies bags were made available, she said.
“But we do not anticipate continuing with “paper” packages in the future for entire grades of students,” she clarified in an updated letter.
Recognizing that not everyone has online access, she asked parents and guardians in such situations to connect with their child’s homeroom teacher.
“We are working to determine how to best support learning in these instances and it is helpful if we have a general idea of the numbers we are looking at.”
As of last week, staff were also working to determine how to cater to students with an individualized program or learning support plan to ensure continued supports, she wrote.
Scott Saunders, an educator who has spent his entire career of 20 years at Sundre High School -- the last six as principal -- said when contacted early last week that teachers were in the process of developing delivery methods for course work, online and otherwise.
“We’re trying to keep school moving forward so kids don’t miss on their education,” said Saunders, adding when asked that he has never experienced a remotely comparable situation.
“Not even close,” he said.
Classes are not all that have been cancelled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There will be no extracurricular activities so long as classes remain cancelled,” he said, adding that applies to athletics.
“It comes down to following the same rules as everybody else.”
High school students came in small groups by alphabetical order to pick up books and supplies last week, while parents were also directed to do the same for children at River Valley School.
Among them were Grade 10 students and concert band members Rees Wilson and Hunter Hillock, who just days before had returned from a band trip to Victoria only to learn classes were cancelled.
“At first, I kind of thought it was nice that we wouldn’t be going to school for a while,” said Wilson, who lives in the Bergen area.
“And then these last few days that I’ve been home just doing nothing, it seems kind of boring and I’m not sure how much I’ll actually like staying at home for however long we have to be there for.”
Being cooped up “drives you insane a little bit,” he said.
But Wilson has found ways to cope.
“I try and just keep it the same as if I’d be there on a weekend, doing my chores on the farm, talking to the animals and whatever,” he said with a laugh, adding he’s also been reading, playing music and video games.
Hillock said he didn’t mind the extra time at home but agreed the new routine would get boring. Additionally, the student said he prefers to learn in the classroom setting, which he will miss.
“So it’s going to be interesting.”
Asked how he’s been passing the time, Hillock, whose family owns some land near Bergen, said, “Just going snowboarding, and doing stuff at home, and just kind of relaxing for now.”
Meanwhile, Anna Sam, a mother of two who lives in Sundre, said educators seem to be doing everything they can under very short notice.
“I think they’re doing pretty good,” said Sam while parked in front of the high school waiting for her son Caleb, a Grade 9 student, to pick up his supplies.
Her daughter, Kylee, in Grade 2, was patiently waiting in the back seat.
“It’s hard, because she loves school,” said Sam when asked how the pandemic has impacted the family.
“And my son, as much as kids are like ‘Yay, no school!’ — he’s missing the structure.”
As a stay-at-home mom, Sam said she considers herself lucky, but nevertheless looks forward to returning to a regular routine.
“I just hope that it passes sooner” rather than later, she said.
Lindsay Young, also a mother of two, who lives east of Sundre in the Eagle Hill area, was leaving River Valley School on Wednesday, March 18 after picking up some supplies. Her son Daxton is in Grade 6, and her daughter Taya is in Grade 9.
Young said she’s never experienced anything similar.
“This has been crazy, what else do you say?”
However, she said she was satisfied with the school division’s response.
“They’re taking all of the precautions necessary,” she said.
“And it’s impressive — I am commending the teachers because this would be very hard to do, having their own kids and families.”
Asked how recent developments have thrown her daily routine into disarray, she said, “My kids are really good, and they were excited to learn and hear that they can have stuff online that their teachers are getting together. It’s a learning curve for everybody. We have never done homeschooling, and now I’m a homeschool parent!”
Working part time and also running a farm has made the situation challenging, “But it’s good. Life will carry on. The kids will do their studies and then they’re going to come out and help me with the cows and chores. My kids are never bored, there’s lots for them to do!” she said.
“I like having my kids at home. They enjoy being home, but they miss their friends and they miss being at school. But it’s not forever,” she said, grateful that proactive measures are being taken to prevent the pandemic from getting even worse.
If nothing else, she said COVID-19 has given people a chance to slow down and reconnect.
“Everybody was so busy before. Now, you’re finally realizing family time is important,” she said.
“You have to look for the silver lining.”