In the face of the Omicron wave, Chinook’s Edge School Division and Wolf Creek Public Schools are cautiously keeping doors open for in-person learning. While this allows for more effective learning, schools stay prepared to tackle any push back to online classes.
“Currently, students within Wolf Creek are learning in person and have been since the return from the holiday break. We have experienced some increase in absenteeism over the past few weeks. Students overall have been happy to be back in school,” said Wolf Creek Public Schools Superintendent Tim De Ruyck.
Learning is best in a face-to-face environment, said Kurt Sacher, superintendent for Chinook’s Edge School Division. “I think we are making our ways through this as well as we could and hope to maintain face-to-face learning. Unless we run into a significant operational challenge, our goal is to keep students and teachers connected in a face-to-face learning environment,” he said, adding, staff are prepared to shift to online learning if required.
There has been an increase in absenteeism among students and some staff throughout the Wolf Creek Public Schools division, said Burke. At present, all schools remain operational without any shift to remote learning.
“Absenteeism rates vary from school to school, and we are watching rates closely. Students’ absences are anywhere from 14 percent up to 60-65 percent. At some point if the absences get to be such that it doesn’t make sense to do in-class learning, we would temporarily shift to remote learning,” said Burke.
Increasing absenteeism can pressurize school operations and Chinook’s Edge School Division is no different.
In navigation to the issue around absenteeism, the board temporarily moved a few elementary classes online. “We did that because the absenteeism was so significant and also operationally we felt it was in our best interest to go online. But, that’s a very small percentage of our students and in the school division out of 11,000 students we currently have about 50 learning online,” said Sacher. “We have asked families to prepare for online learning and staff are fully prepared. But if we can operationalize face-to-face learning, that’s always our preference,” he added.
Sacher shared his pride in the flexible, adaptive and accommodating approach staff has shown with fluctuating absenteeism and in finding creative ways to fill any learning gaps that exist.
Schools have been receiving a steady shipment of rapid test kits and medical-grade masks.
The first shipment from the Alberta Government provided a two-week supply of medical-grade masks, which was 20 masks per staff and student, and a box of five rapid COVID-19 tests, said Burke. The second shipment is expected to provide a greater volume of test kits and masks, enough for a four-week supply.
“We had enough kits for every student in the school division and we sent messaging home to see if families wanted them, and if they did, we sent the testing kits home. It’s up to the families if they want to use them or not,” said Sacher.
Burke appreciates the continued support from students, families and staff at Wolf Creek Public Schools. “We continue to have health measures in place in schools, such as masking, cohorting, and enhanced cleaning to keep people safe. We ask that families continue to use the daily health checklist and if they have any symptoms of illness they have to stay home from school,” he said.