What's happening at Foothills

Simon Says - COVID-19 Update May 5th

Published: May 5, 2020 4:06 p.m.

Although Foothills has strived to continue with all aspects of our supportive school program, for which immense credit goes out to all staff members, we are as keen as anybody to resume ‘normal’ school life. The problem, however, is that currently, nobody knows what ‘normal’ looks like. The re-entry plan for students to return to schools across the province is still ongoing. Whilst the Ministry of Education continues to work closely with the Ministry of Health, there are many different scenarios that are being considered by the government with regards to re-opening schools in September.

Dear parents, student, staff and community members,

I hope that you have been coping with the COVID-19 crisis as best as possible and that Foothills Academy has helped to maintain some consistency and support in the life of your child and your family. Although it seems like ages ago, it is two months since the COVID-19 outbreak forced the Minister of Education to close classrooms across the province. Since then, we have slowly become more accustomed to the drastic changes in our daily routines and schedules. Everybody has been impacted in some way by the virus, and this is coupled with much uncertainty throughout society about what the future holds. 

Although Foothills has strived to continue with all aspects of our supportive school program, for which immense credit goes out to all staff members, we are as keen as anybody to resume ‘normal’ school life. The problem, however, is that currently, nobody knows what ‘normal’ looks like.

I have been very fortunate to have worked closely over the past few weeks with the Minister and Deputy Minister of Education, and their staff, as well as with the Association of Independent Schools and Colleges of Alberta (AISCA), to help map out a plan for the province to re-open schools.  After numerous calls and video-conferences, the Ministry of Education will release more information later this week, with a plan of how students will return to the classroom. 

The Minister of Education, Adrianna LaGrange has clearly announced that students will not return to in-school classes for the remainder of the year.  The decision to not return to school this year provides us all with clarity for the remaining two months of school. It is important to remember that all decisions made by the Ministry of Education now, and moving forwards, are made with the focus on the safety of children, families, staff, and the wider community.

We know definitively that the next two months will be at-home schooling, but what about September? 

The re-entry plan for students to return to schools across the province is still ongoing. Whilst the Ministry of Education continues to work closely with the Ministry of Health, there are many different scenarios that are being considered by the government with regards to re-opening schools in September.  Three possible scenarios could be:

  • Classrooms remain closed and students continue to learn online at home.
  • Schools partially re-open and a blended structure of learning in school and at home is developed and implemented.
  • Schools re-open fully, with appropriate regulations around COVID-19 protocols.

The fact of the matter right now is that we do not know what September holds. No decisions have been made by the Ministry of Education about a re-entry plan. Foothills Academy will continue to work closely with the government to assist wherever we can in formulating a plan. As soon as an announcement is made by the Ministry of Education about a re-entry plan, then we will work with all of our students, families, staff and stakeholders to ensure that we can provide as supportive and effective re-opening as possible.

As we have moved through the weeks of at-home learning, our dedicated staff have been working hard to ensure that all students and families remain engaged in learning whilst also being supported socially and emotionally. Whether it be staff on the screen striving to engage students in daily lessons, enrichment programs and physical activities, or those behind the scenes continuing to ensure that Foothills is running smoothly (especially in the tech area), then a big thank-you to all. I hope that you have also been privy to the Weekly Wellness Newsletter updates from our other Executive Co-Director Dr. Karen MacMillan, as she and the counselling team continue to provide invaluable resources for parents and families who are living through the anxieties of this crisis, juggling at-home schooling, and managing work and life in general.

Our Program Coordinators, Sean Horton and Kim McLean, are ensuring great continuity throughout the school for students, staff and parents.  Students can still expect end of year reports and assessments, as well as continuing to have Individual Program Plans (IPPs) be measured.  Also, important plans are being developed to recognize this year’s graduates during these unique times. 

Although there are no certainties beyond summer, please rest assured that we are working hard on plans to create solutions for any possible situations which may arise. This also extends to Community Services, where programs are being reviewed and alternate plans are being made for a range of scenarios which may, or may, not happen.

We are all living in a state of not knowing what the future holds, but we will all come through this together as the Foothills family. We are here for each and every one of you, and will continue to make the most informed decisions possible at the right times so that we can get back to ‘normal’ as soon as possible; whatever that looks like.

Thank you all for working with us during these truly challenging times, and I look forward to our continued collaboration as we help to devise what the next school year looks like. 

Sincerely,

Simon