COVID-19: Continuing Quality Educational Supports with At-Home Learning.
As a school, we are committed to ensuring a continuation of quality educational programming for your child. Regardless of the baseline standards of teaching expected by the Ministry of Education, Foothills Academy recognizes the utmost need to maintain our own high academic, social and emotional supports for all students. Foothills Academy will not be reducing the number of educational assistants from the school program for May and June. We recognize the essential role of educational assistants working with students with Learning Disabilities in DSEPS such as Foothills Academy. We will continue to provide a quality school-program during these very trying circumstances whilst also ensuring positively high levels of consistency, learning and support; for your children and yourselves.
I hope that you are finding some routine and structure in these challenging times. Although Spring Break was not what anybody had planned, hopefully, you were able to have time with your family, albeit in somewhat isolated circumstances. As we move into the final term of school, there is undoubtedly a heightened level of anxiety and worry in Albertan households. The unknown of how long the COVID-19 lock-down will last, the constraints imposed upon our day to day lives, and the concerns about long-term financial stability, are all contributing to elevated levels of worry across the province. In conjunction with this is the unknown anxiety of how school is going to look with the ‘at-home learning environment’ we are confined to as this pandemic sweeps the nation.
As you know, last month Alberta Education made the quick and correct decision to close classrooms across the province for the safety of all students and communities in Alberta and beyond. The Minister of Education shared a letter to parents (Minister's Letter to Parents) expressing the rationale for classroom closures, as well as how the Ministry of Education is helping to ease the challenges of the closures. All PATs and Diploma examinations are cancelled for this year, all students on track to progress to the next grade will do so, and students will also receive a final grade for the year. Every student eligible to graduate grade 12 will graduate, and schools have been granted flexibility for awarding credits for high-school completion. Clearly student learning is going to continue, but how will this look at Foothills Academy?
It is important to note that your role at home is that of the parent. We acknowledge that you are not your child’s teacher and the most important aspect throughout this whole crisis is the health and welfare of your children, yourselves and your family. Hopefully, you have been keeping up with our other Executive Co-Director, Dr. Karen MacMillan, and her counselling team’s Weekly Wellness letters. Every Thursday, Karen and team share advice, research and supports to help you and your children at home to cope with the challenges we face during this pandemic.
As a school, we are committed to ensuring a continuation of quality educational programming for your child. Regardless of the baseline standards of teaching expected by the Ministry of Education, Foothills Academy recognizes the utmost need to maintain our own high academic, social and emotional supports for all students. Having trialled the at-home learning environment prior to Spring Break, we are confident that we can have a successful school-term through to the summer.
Additionally, you may be aware of last week’s funding reduction imposed upon Alberta schools across the province. 14% of the provincial base funding for schools is being removed for May and June. This is impacting many jurisdictions, including Foothills Academy, although we appreciate that no sector is immune to the impacts of the COVID-19 lock-down. Many school jurisdictions have responded to the provincial funding reduction by temporarily laying off educational assistants for the months of May and June. This was an anticipated measure and partly a result of the current at-home learning environment across the province.
It is important to note that the role of educational assistants at Foothills Academy is very important for us to provide more individualized supports to our students. Arguably, this is even more apparent in an online environment. Therefore, unlike many other jurisdictions, Foothills Academy will not be reducing the number of educational assistants from the school program for May and June. We have aligned with the Association of Independent Schools and Colleges of Alberta (AISCA) and other Designated Special Education Private Schools (DSEPS) to appeal to the provincial government for leniency with the funding reduction. We recognize the essential role of educational assistants working with students with Learning Disabilities in DSEPS such as Foothills Academy. We, therefore, hope that some of our funding reduction is reinstated as a result of the greater needs of our student population.
Regardless, we maintain the high expectations we have always had, of all staff, to work closely with our students. However, there will inevitably be some radical changes in the way staff serve and support students online. Your child will continue to have daily classes including breaks with programs devised by our PE staff as well as options where possible. The importance of social interaction is equally important for students’ mental health, and therefore we will aim to support student clubs online where possible. As usual, your homeroom teacher will be your first port of call for questions and supports. Our Program Coordinators, Mr. Sean Horton and Ms. Kim McLean have structured an excellent schedule for students and staff to ensure the best possibilities for successful student learning and development.
We will continue to provide a quality school-program during these very trying circumstances whilst also ensuring positively high levels of consistency, learning and support; for your children and yourselves. Such is the magnitude of this crisis, now, like never before, do we need to be able to support you; our Foothills family. We are here for all of our students and families, and together we will get through the pandemic. Be sure to reach out to us when you need to.
On behalf of the exhaustive work being done by the school administration, the Board of Governors, teachers, assistants, Community Services, support staff, back-office staff, custodians and Karen & myself, I hope that you are healthy, somewhat rested, and ready to work together through these challenging times.
Here’s to a future of normalcy on the horizon,