Update 12:30 p.m. April 3, 2020
We know any of you have been anxious about what is happening with our staff as a result of the announcement made by Alberta Education on Saturday that funding to school divisions was being reduced for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, and layoffs would be required to make up for the shortfall. We appreciate the support you have shown to our staff as they have adjusted to a different way of providing programming to students.
Early this week, we were able to clarify that while we would be receiving reduced funding for the rest of the school year, school boards would be able to determine how best to deal with the resulting budget shortfall. We appreciate the flexibility provided to us by Alberta Education to find the best solution to meet our needs and, ultimately, the needs of our students.
We are pleased to share that at yesterday’s board meeting, the Northern Lights Public Schools Board of Trustees approved a plan put forward by administration that will address the reduction in funding from the government while minimizing the impact on staffing and the services we provide to our students. By avoiding mass layoffs, we are also able to minimize the effect on our local economy, which has already been severely impacted by the economic downturn, and provide stability to members of our Northern Lights family.
Our focus is always on our students and ensuring we are able to meet their needs. In addition to providing educational programming while classes are cancelled, we also need to be able to continue to provide mental health support to students, specialized services like speech language and occupational therapy, and other supports to meet the complex needs of our students. Our support staff play an integral role in ensuring we are able to fulfill the needs of all of our students, so it was important to us to make sure we were able to retain as many staff as possible.
We were able to offset a large portion of the reduction in funding by identifying areas in our budget where expenses could be reduced as a result of not having students in our schools. We would like to thank our division office and school administration for their work in re-examining their budgets.
In addition to retaining staff, it was also important to us to honour the agreements we had in place with our contractors. As a result of a reduction in funding for transportation, we had to make adjustments to what we are paying our bus contractors, but we were able to do this while adhering to the terms of our contracts.
While we are able to address our shortfall without making a major reduction in staffing, we will be offering our educational assistants, librarians and division bus drivers the option of taking a voluntary layoff. We want to make it clear that this is completely voluntary and they are encouraged to make the best decision to meet the needs of their families at this time.
Unfortunately, there is one area where we were not able to avoid a reduction in staffing. Since our preschool and out of school care programs are completely funded through the fees paid by parents, and those programs are currently not in operation, we have had to release the staff employed in those programs. These staff play an important role in our system and provide valuable services for our families. It is regrettable that we have had to take this step, and we are grateful for the hard work and skills that these staff brought to our team. We fully expect to continue our preschool and out of school care programs once classes resume, and we invite all staff released this week to rejoin us at that point.
The last couple of weeks have been difficult for all of us, and will continue to be difficult as we deal with the ongoing challenges of providing services to our students while classes are cancelled and we deal with the effects of a global pandemic. We are confident that we have developed a plan that will allow us to meet the needs of our students in the weeks to come and help us prepare for the time when we are able to resume classes again.
Next week is Spring Break and we hope you all have the opportunity to enjoy some time with your family and focus on taking care of the people who are important to you. We will be back at work after Easter, ready to connect with you again and work with you to meet the needs of our students.
Arlene Hrynyk Rick Cusson
Board Chair Superintendent
Update 5:30 p.m. March 31, 2020
Thank you to all of you who responded to our Sunday evening email with messages of support for our staff and the work they have been doing, as well as offers of assistance. We appreciate the kindness, understanding and gratitude you have shown to our staff as they navigate this new reality we are all experiencing.
We have a few things to update you on today.
Student Learning Activities
We are now in week two of providing student learning activities to families. In week one, we had to make some changes to the way that the folders and files were shared with students and parents. So if you had something bookmarked please delete that bookmark. If it still shows up in your Shared Drives section of Google Drive please ignore it, it will eventually disappear.
So, how do you access the new folders and files?
The easiest way is to go to the main website https://nlpsab.ca and click on Student Learning Activities or you can click here https://www.nlpsab.ca/student-learning-activties and choose your school. You do not need a username or password to access the activities.
Your ongoing support and patience is appreciated as we move forward with our Continuity of Learning plan. This is a new way of teaching for our teachers, and they are required to stay within the time and content limits set by Alberta Education.
We encourage you to continue to connect with your child’s school and teacher to discuss any concerns you have or supports that you need.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the questions that have been submitted on our Northern Lights Public Schools Questions and Answers Facebook group or via email to email@example.com. If you submitted a question and do not see the answer, we are probably still trying to confirm an answer. Thank you for your patience.
Question: Is there more information on when parents may receive refunds for some of the purchases made or fees paid before classes were cancelled?
Schools have already begun the process of refunding some fees to parents and some parents may already have received notification through School Cash Online that their refunds are being process. Our preschool and out of school care programs are also working on processing refunds for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
The volume of requests being processed by School Cash Online remains high and it may take awhile for every parent to receive a refund for items that they purchased.
Question: Should the students who were receiving speech and OT services be hearing something this week along with their programming from their teachers? Also does anyone know if summer speech and OT services will be available through AHS automatically for our kids or do we need to contact them ourselves?
If NLPS SLP's and OT's are providing services, you will be getting a call to determine how continued services will be delivered.
We are not sure what SLP and OT services over the summer will look like from AHS. We will share any new information with families of NLPS as soon as we hear.
Question: I am wondering how “touring school options” and registering kids moving into high school from Grade 8 will go?
The good news is that you do not have to register students who are currently in Grade 8 for high school. If they are currently an NLPS student their information will move with them to the next school the same way it does for any other grade level. At some point (we haven't confirmed the date yet) we will send you a Student Update and Verification Form so you can update your contact information and sign forms that we need for next year. As well, your child's current school or the high school will send you information later this year with things you may need to know or some questions they may need answered to help them and you prepare for next year.
As for tours or orientation, that may look a little different or happen at a different time than it usually does, but we will do what we can to provide those opportunities for our students when our schools re-open to the public.
If you have questions or things you would like to discuss with staff at one of our high schools, feel free to reach out at any time.
Question: Will the schools be sending out the login info for various subscription learning sites the schools already pays for? Example: Starfall, ABC Mouse, etc
Some schools have already shared log in information for subscription learning sites that students normally access at school. If there are specific sites you need the information to access, please contact your child's school or teacher.
Question: I appreciate the student learning activities that teachers are going to share, but would like to supplement that with other online learning resources. Do you have any recommendations?
There are many great resources available online for parents and teachers may be sharing some of them with parents along with the student learning activities we are sharing on a weekly basis.
One issue with accessing resources online is finding sites and sources that align with what your student is learning (age and grade appropriate, Canadian content and references, etc.).
The Alberta School Councils' Association has compiled a list of resources that are available online from Alberta Education and Alberta school jurisdictions. This is a good place to find content that has been developed for students in Alberta.
We will also make an effort to post more online resources and links for parents on this Questions and Answers page and on our website as we move forward.
Question: Usually after report cards students in grade 9 to 11 are selecting their classes and electives for next year. I know the situation has delayed that process. However, will we be receiving it shortly?
Our schools have been focused on preparing resources and activities for students. Once everything is running smoothly, they will start discussing how to start preparing students for transitioning to high school (Grade 8's moving to Grade 9) and preparing for next year. When they have established their plan, they will inform parents about what they need to do.
Question: What about Provincial Diploma Exams for Grade 12s? Are they cancelled? What does that mean for students?
PDE’s are cancelled. Alberta Education has clarified that the only exceptions that will be made are for home-school students who need the results to meet entrance requirements for post-secondary institutions; or for adult students who can challenge a diploma exam without taking the course. Exceptions will not be made for students who were intending to re-write an exam to improve their mark.
Update: 5:30 p.m. March 29, 2020
We had originally planned a shorter update for you this evening, featuring some of the amazing work our staff have been doing to develop student learning activities and connect with our students. Given the announcement that was made by the provincial government on Saturday morning, we will be saving that for another time.
For those who haven’t heard, Alberta Education issued this news release: K-12 education funding temporarily adjusted to match cost late Saturday morning. In subsequent communications sent to school jurisdictions, Northern Lights Public Schools, along with school divisions across the province, was directed to provide notice to educational assistants, other “non-essential” support staff, and board-employed bus drivers.
We have learned that the funding we receive for instruction will be reduced by 14% in May and June, and our transportation funding is being reduced by 51%. In the case of transportation, this will impact the bus contractors who were providing services to our students in addition to the bus drivers employed by the school division.
As many of you are aware, our support staff are an integral part of our Education Continuity Plan. They have worked alongside our teachers for the past two weeks assisting with the development of our plan to provide students with meaningful learning activities while classes remain cancelled. In particular, they have been focusing on how to continue to support some of our most vulnerable students and families. This includes not only students receiving inclusive education programming, but also those who experience food insecurity or instability in their lives outside of school. Amongst other things, we were looking at ways our support staff could get resources and activities to students who do not have access to technology and how they could be involved in providing and delivering meals as part of our School Nutrition Program.
Northern Lights remains committed to providing students with weekly student learning activities from teachers at their schools. However, Saturday’s announcement may result in changes to how often we are able to connect with families and the support we are able to provide to students. We may need to make modifications to the services we provide if large numbers of our staff become ill. Our hope is that we do not find ourselves in this situation, but we feel it is important to be upfront about that possibility.
At this point we do not know exactly what changes we may need to make. We will be receiving more information and seeking clarification from Alberta Education tomorrow morning and than we will need to re-examine our budget before we determine what our next steps will be. As always, when we have important information to share, we will share it with parents as soon as we are able.
We want to extend a big thank you to our students and parents who have so patiently and compassionately supported us over the last two weeks. We want you to know that we appreciate everything you are doing at home with your children as well as the efforts you have made to reach out to our staff and work with them as we adjust to this new reality.
Even though we are physically further apart at this time, our connections to each other are more important than ever. In our message for staff, we thanked them for the efforts they have made to connect with students and engage them in new and fun ways. Many of them are learning new skills and moving outside their own comfort zones to connect with students and families. The feedback we are receiving from students, parents and the community has been overwhelmingly positive and has also helped our staff continue to feel connected to our students and their families.
As our reality continues to shift and change, we will do our best to keep you informed of what is happening.
Update: 5:30 p.m. March 24, 2020
Starting tomorrow (Wednesday, March 25, 2020), to enhance the actions that have already been taken to reduce exposure to COVID-19 in our schools, NLPS will be providing all non-essential staff with the option to work from home. This might mean that you hear some dogs barking or children playing in the background when your child’s teacher calls to check in.
This does not change the commitment we have made to supporting student learning and sharing weekly student learning activities. Staff will continue their work at home and will still be available to communicate with parents and students.
Some staff will continue to work out of our schools, so if you have questions or need assistance with anything school-related, please feel free to contact your child’s school.
Thank you for all of the questions you have been submitting on our Northern Lights Public Schools Questions and Answers Facebook group. We will have a couple of questions with answers that we will be sharing tomorrow, which we will also include in tomorrow’s email update. If you have a question you would like answered please submit them in the group or send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will do our best to get an answer for you.
Thank you for your continued support at this time.
Update: 5:30 p.m. March 23, 2020
Today’s message is going to focus on what Northern Lights Public Schools is doing to ensure continuity of learning for students. We appreciate the support and understanding we have received from parents while we worked on developing a plan to meet the needs of our students and families.
We know you have questions about other topics and we will touch on some of them in our updates later this week. Please continue to submit your questions to email@example.com or on our Northern Lights Public Schools Questions and Answers page.
On Friday, we received information from Alberta Education that clarified the expectations for schools in regards to sharing content and learning opportunities with students. We were pleased to see that much of what was recommended in the guidelines that were provided aligned with the plans that we were already putting in place.
As we shared in our last message, our teachers have already begun working on resources and activities to share with families. Student learning activities will be shared on a weekly basis in digital folders that will be accessed through the nlpsab.ca website.
Parents of students in Kindergarten to Grade 9 will be contacted by a staff member and asked about their ability to access online learning activities and discuss what supports may be needed. On either Wednesday or Thursday of this week, parents will receive an email informing them that the lessons for this week are available.
We realize that it may be challenging for some students to participate in online learning and complete all of the assignments provided to them. Please discuss any concerns you have with your child’s school and/or teachers. Our goal is to provide students with learning opportunities that will enhance their skills and knowledge so they are prepared to come back to school when it resumes. However, we also realize that when we do start the new school year, we will need to spend some time helping students learn and/or review the skills and knowledge they need to progress in their studies. We will be putting a plan in place to ensure students have those opportunities and the supports they need to succeed.
After this week, parents can expect to receive an email every Tuesday afternoon letting them know that week’s learning activities are ready to be accessed and any other information they may need. Teachers will be checking in with families on a regular basis to discuss the activities and how students are doing. Alternatives methods may not be available at all schools.
Please note, we will continue to follow the Northern Lights Public Schools’ 2019-2020 School Calendar so new learning activities will not be posted the week of April 6-10 (Spring Break) and school staff will not be available that week.
Our plan for Grade 10-12 looks slightly different, which we will explain below.
Kindergarten to Grade 3
Learning activities for students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 will focus on the language/literacy and mathematics/numeracy outcomes of the provincial curriculum. Teachers will assign an average of five hours of work per student per week. In addition to literacy and numeracy, teachers will also provide activities from other subject areas such as physical education, wellness, science, art, and social studies.
Grades 4 to 6
Learning activities will focus on language/literacy and mathematics/numeracy outcomes, and there will be opportunities to include science and social studies outcomes as well. Teachers will assign an average of five hours of work per student per week. In addition to the core curriculum, teachers will also provide activities from other subject areas such as physical education, wellness, art, etc.
Grades 7 to 9
Learning activities will focus on core mathematics, language/literacy, science and social studies curriculum outcomes. Teachers will assign an average of 10 hours of work per student per week. There will be opportunities to also share activities from other subject areas such as physical education, wellness, art, etc.
Grades 10 to 12
Content will be focused on specific and core courses required for high school graduation requirements, including language, social studies, mathematics, biology, chemistry and physics. Content from other courses will be delivered where possible, and accommodations for students who are unable to complete courses are in place. Teachers will assign an average of three hours of work per course per week.
Schools will be contacting families over the next few days to talk about course selection for the remainder of the year and develop a plan that will best meet the needs of students. This will include selecting two core courses for students to focus on. These two courses will be selected based on a number of criteria including:
- Whether or not the course is a specific or core course mentioned above (language, social studies, math, biology, chemistry, physics);
- Whether or not the course is needed to meet graduation requirements;
- How the student was doing in the course prior to classes being cancelled;
- What skills and knowledge students will need to build on as they progress (to the next grade level or on to post-secondary).
Focusing on two courses does not mean that students will work on content only from those courses. The majority of their assignments will focus on those courses, however they may be assigned work from other courses they are also enrolled in.
Schools have been provided with flexibility in assigning credits to students for this year. That means that some students may receive credit for a course based on work they have already completed and may not receive additional assignments for that course. Alternatively teachers may ask for certain assignments to be completed to complete the course (fewer than would be required for the two courses students will be focusing on).
There may be some courses that students are unable to complete for a variety of reasons (ie. hands-on courses). In those cases, principals have the ability to award credits to ensure student progression.
High schools have the flexibility to provide up to 15 additional credits for Grade 12 students to ensure their ability to graduate this year if they were on track to graduate prior to classes being cancelled.
Update: 1 p.m. March 20,2020
We are pleased to be able to provide you with further details about what is being done to provide learning opportunities and support students during this time.
Earlier today, Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange provided further clarification to school divisions about continuity of student learning and service delivery. You can read the full news release HERE.
We were pleased to see that much of the direction and guidance provided aligned with the plans that we have already been working on in conjunction with Lakeland Catholic School Division and Conseil scolaire Centre-Est. We appreciate the balance that has been struck between providing students with opportunities to learn, and understanding the complexities of providing those opportunities outside of the school environment.
Here are a few highlights from the guidelines released today:
- All kindergarten to Grade 12 students will be offered at-home learning opportunities, either through online means or through other accommodations, such as course packages and telephone check-ins.
- For Kindergarten to Grade 6, teachers will assign an average of five hours of work per student per week, and will be expected to work with their students and parents on the delivery of these materials. Students in grades 7 to 9 will be assigned 10 hours of work per week.
- Learning for high school students will continue with the focus on courses needed to meet graduation requirements. Teachers will assign an average of 3 hours of work per course per week, and will be expected to work with their students and parents on the delivery of these materials.
- All Grade 6 and 9 provincial achievement tests and Grade 12 diploma exams are cancelled. Under special circumstances, students can request to write a diploma exam. Students wishing to do so should speak to their teacher and school administrator.
Instruction will be on hold temporarily while we finalize our plans for sharing content with parents and students. Our instructional leaders have been mapping out a framework for content and next week our staff will continue developing resources and materials. We will be sharing more details on our model for content delivery and timelines next week with parents.
Last year, during our stakeholder engagements we heard clearly that student mental health needed to be made a priority and we committed to that in our three-year education plan. During this time of uncertainty and change, it is more important than ever that we maintain that focus on mental health.
We know many parents and students have been anxious and feeling a lot of pressure about keeping up with their studies or missing out on learning opportunities. We want to be clear that all students who were on track to progress to the next grade will do so. Our intent in providing weekly assignments and activities is to support our students during this time. It is not meant to cause undue hardship or stress on our families. If you are worried about supporting your child academically during this time, please share your concerns with your child’s teacher. Working together, we will look for solutions that will support your child and work for you.
We also want you to know that while the focus right now is on providing learning opportunities to students while classes are cancelled, we are also looking ahead at what supports students will need when they return to school. We know there will be a period of adjustment that focuses on addressing potential gaps in learning and preparing them for the grade they are about to begin.
The situation we are currently experiencing continues to evolve and we will continue to adapt and follow the guidance and direction we are given. We thank you all for the support you have shown to us and your willingness to work with us during this time.
Update: 5 p.m. March 19,2020
Our updates today include further details on picking up student belongings, our plan to provide programming for students, and some more frequently asked questions from our Northern Lights Public Schools Questions and Answers Facebook group.
Programming for Students
Instruction will be paused next week while we continue to work with Lakeland Catholic and Conseil scolaire Centre-Est to determine instructional alternatives and program delivery for students. As we have more details finalized about what that will look like and how it will work, we will share them with you.
Schools will be sharing details about the process for picking up student belongings at each school site. Pickup of belongings will take place on Monday, March 23 and Tuesday, March 24. The process may be slightly different at each school, so please pay attention to the details in the email sent by your child’s school.
For students who normally take the bus to and/or from school, bus drivers will deliver any student belongings that are not picked up on Monday to the students on their routes on Tuesday. Parents will be contacted by bus drivers to confirm drop off locations and times.
We are working on a plan to possibly deliver items to students who do not normally take the bus, however, it may take awhile to sort out the logistics. We encourage all parents who are able, to pick up their child’s items at schools during the scheduled times.
The following Questions and Answers have been posted in our new Facebook group. We are sharing them here for those of you who do not have access to Facebook. If you have questions you would like us to post an answer to, you can submit a post in the group, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Question: Is preschool and kindergarten registration for next year still going ahead?
Answer: Absolutely. Registration for Kindergarten and pre-registration for preschool (for existing students) opened on March 12. Registration for new preschool students will open on March 27 as originally scheduled.
Our early learning open houses have been cancelled, but when restrictions on mass gatherings are lifted, we will make an effort to provide families with a similar opportunity if we can.
If you have questions about our preschool or kindergarten programs, please contact the school and we will be more than happy to answer any questions you have. Our preschool coordinator, Glenda Bouvier, is also happy to answer questions about preschool programming and registration. She can be reached at email@example.com or 780-623-4414.
Q: What about fees that have been paid for field trips that are no longer taking place and other items purchased through School Cash Online?
Answer: Some schools have already started the refund process for some items. School Cash Online is experiencing some delays due to a high volume of requests at this time so it may take some time before the refunds are processed.
We will continue to work on this next week and hope to have more answers to the questions we are receiving about refunds by the end of the month.
Question: What about graduation ceremonies? Can they still go ahead at a later date?
Answer: At this time we are unsure of what graduation ceremonies will look like and when they might be hosted due to the restrictions on mass gatherings.
Our focus at this time is on ensuring students have what they need academically, so it may take some time for us to determine how to address graduation ceremonies. We will be working with schools, students and parents in the future to determine what options may be available to recognize this important milestone for our students.
Update: 5:30 p.m. March 18, 2020
We have a few updates today, including a few frequently asked questions that have been posted on our new Northern Lights Public Schools Questions and Answers Facebook group.
Coronavirus and Mental Health
While many of us have been preoccupied with our physical health at this time, it is equally important that we do what we can to look after our mental health and the mental health of our families. To assist with this, NLPS has developed a Coronavirus and Mental Health document full of tips, resources and information on maintaining mental wellness during this time.
Programming for Students
All three local school jurisdictions (Lakeland Catholic School Division, Northern Lights Public Schools and Conseil scolaire Centre-Est) met again today to further discuss options to deliver programming to students while classes are cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Working collaboratively where possible, the three jurisdictions will be developing learning activities for students at all grade levels. They will also be developing a process for students and/or parents to access those activities.
The three school divisions also continue to wait for additional guidance from Alberta Education about content delivery and Diploma Examinations.
The following Questions and Answers have been posted in our new Facebook group. We are sharing them here for those of you who do not have access to Facebook. If you have questions you would like us to post an answer to, you can submit a post in the group, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: What about students who were receiving speech or occupational therapy or services through PUF?
A: We are currently working with our inclusive education team and Alberta Health Services to determine how we can continue to support students who were receiving these services. We hope to have a plan in place soon and will be contacting families about what those supports may look like for their children.
Q: When can we come to the school and pick up our child's belongings?
A: In order to comply with the recommendations about social distancing and mass gatherings, we are working on a process that will allow parents to retrieve student belongings while minimizing contact with staff and other parents. The dates for picking up student belongings will be Monday and Tuesday of next week - more information of how this will be accomplished will be communicated later this week. We are working on an option that includes delivery of belongings for some students.
If you have an urgent need for items that are at a school (medical equipment, etc.), please contact your child's school to arrange for a time to pick them up.
Q: I haven't been getting the email updates you have been sending to parents. What is going on?
A: We send out our emails using School Messenger. This allows us to send phone, email and text messages to parents using the contact information that has been provided to our schools.
Parents who download the School Messenger App or go online to go.schoolmessenger.ca and set up an account (using the email address we have on file) can also view messages online or on their devices.
There are several reasons why you may not be receiving our email messages:
- You have not provided an email address to your child's school.
- The email address we have on file for you is incorrect (usually a typo) or outdated.
- The email is going to your spam folder.
- When you received a previous email, you unsubscribed to receiving future emails.
- You reported a previous email from us as spam.
- You have blocked us.
- You have indicated in the Preferences section of the School Messenger app that you don't want to receive Parent Contact messages by email.
To verify if we have your correct email address in our system, please contact your child's school by phone or email. Our administrative assistants can check your information and update it if needed. Please note that if your information needs to be updated in our system, it may take up to 24 hours for everything to sync and for you to start receiving our messages.
If you have downloaded the School Messenger app and created an account, you can change your message preferences in the Preferences section of the app. Make sure the email box is checked for Parent Contact messages and you should receive all of our updates.
More information about School Messenger is available on our website: https://www.nlpsab.ca/parents/parent-tools/school-messenger2, including Frequently Asked Questions.
Q: I'm trying to call my child's school but no one is answering or I get a busy signal. What should I do?
A: Our schools are experiencing a high call volume this week. Teachers are making calls to parents/students to check in and do parent teacher interviews, and many parents are also calling schools with questions about what is happening. Some of our schools have limited phone lines so it may take a few tries to get through.
You can also try contacting your child's teacher(s) through email. Email contact information for each staff member is posted on the school website.
Update: 4:30 p.m. March 17, 2020
Today’s update will be brief as we continue to work on many of the items mentioned in yesterday’s email.
Programming for Students
All three local school jurisdictions (Northern Lights Public Schools, Lakeland Catholic School Division and Conseil scolaire Centre-Est) are working collaboratively to achieve a similarity in practice regarding program planning and delivery; however, we are waiting for further guidance from Alberta Education. We are starting to prepare a plan and we will provide further information in the upcoming days.
NLPS and our schools have been receiving many questions through Facebook messenger, in addition to phone calls and emails. Since many parents are asking the same questions, and since many of the answers may be of interest to other parents, we have created a new Facebook group - Northern Lights Public Schools Questions and Answers - where we will be posting questions along with the answers that we have at this point and time. We will provide updates to the posts when they become available. Members of the group will be able to pose questions by submitting posts. Those will be reviewed by our Communications team and posted when an answer is available. We will do our best to answer questions as quickly as we can, however, we want our answers to be as accurate and thorough as possible and it may take some time to do that.
Update: 6 p.m. March 16, 2020
Thank you for your patience while we have been seeking clarification and working on what the next few days and months will look like for Northern Lights Public Schools.
Today our division office leadership team participated in a conference call with Alberta Education where we received a bit more direction on how we are to proceed in the coming weeks. Tomorrow we will be speaking to jurisdictional leaders throughout the province to discuss options for providing programming to students. Our goal is to create a plan that will offer learning opportunities for our students and will be consistent with other jurisdictions in the province.
That being said, there is still a lot we don’t know and we ask for your continued patience and understanding while we work our way through all of the details and develop plans to deal with this situation.
We have been receiving a lot of questions from parents and we would like to address some of the more frequently asked questions in this communication. If there are questions we have not addressed, please respond to this email with your question and we will try our best to answer it. Please understand that the situation is changing very quickly and there is still a lot we don’t know or are able to confirm. We want to make sure that when we provide you with information it is as accurate as possible.
Parents will still have the opportunity to discuss their child’s progress with their child’s teacher(s) this week, but it will not be in the format that had been planned. Instead of in-person meetings or student-led conferences, your child’s school or teacher will contact you to set up a time to talk over the phone or via videoconference. Please note that these meetings will focus on discussing your child’s progress to date this year, and not on what programming may be provided to them moving forward. Those details will be shared at a later date.
Many parents and students have asked when they can come to school to collect personal items and other things they have at school. Please do not drop by the school to pick things up as we are unable to provide access to our schools to parents at this time. We are working on a process that will allow people to retrieve belongings and your child’s school will share details with you about the procedure to follow once they have been confirmed. If there are items that are needed urgently (medically related, etc.) please contact your child’s school to make arrangements.
Report cards will be shared with parents this week. Our schools are working on plans to distribute them and will share those plans with parents.
Programming for Students
We can assure you that every student in every grade will receive a final mark for the classes they were enrolled in before classes were cancelled.
As mentioned above, we are working with Alberta Education and other school jurisdictions in the province to determine what continuity of programming for students will look like and what the possible methods of delivery may be. It may take some time to determine how this will work for Northern Lights students.
We want to ensure that we are able to provide students with opportunities that are valuable for them and that we will be able to provide on a consistent basis, while also dealing with the potential impact of COVID-19 on our operations, including staff who need to self-isolate or may become ill.
Once we have a plan developed, we will share details with all of our parents and students.
Provincial Achievement Tests for Grade 6 and 9 students have been cancelled. Provincial Diploma Exams are still going ahead, but there may be changes made to what students will be required to write them and how they are delivered. Alberta Education is working on clarifying this for school divisions and we will update you on this when information is available.
Grade 12 Students and Graduation
As was mentioned by the Education Minister, every student who was on track to graduate will graduate. As discussed above, we will have information in the coming days about how we will be delivering content for students so they can meet course requirements and complete graduation requirements.
At this time we are unsure of what graduation ceremonies will look like and when they might be hosted. We will be working with schools, students and parents to determine what alternatives may be available. Our focus at this time is on ensuring students have what they need academically, so it may take some time for us to determine how to address graduation ceremonies.
Refunds for Field Trips, Pre-Purchased Items, and Fees
As we only learned of classes being cancelled at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, we have not yet had an opportunity to determine what the process will be for refunding fees that parents have paid for field trips that have been cancelled, hot lunches that aren’t going ahead, and our out of school care and preschool programs which have been closed. We hope to have an answer for you before the end of the month.
Services to Students
Our school administrators, mental health consultants, and school counsellors will be working closely with Alberta Health Services to ensure that students who were receiving mental health and counselling services will continue to be able to get the assistance they need.
For students accessing inclusive education services, we are also working with our partners at Alberta Health Services on accessing assistance for families and students. If you have specific concerns, please do not hesitate to call your child’s school for assistance with meeting students’ needs.
We will provide further updates as they become available. Please take care during these challenging times.
Update: 12 p.m. March 16, 2020
- All classes cancelled - As per direction from Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health and Alberta Education, all Northern Lights Public Schools are closed to students and the public indefinitely effective immediately. We do not have a clear idea of what the next few days, weeks or months will look like, but as we confirm information and our plans are developed, we will share that information with you. Please monitor your email and check our website (nlpsab.ca) and Facebook page (@nlpsab) for updates.
- Travel - All travellers returning from outside Canada on or after March 12 must isolate for 14 days and monitor for symptoms. If symptoms develop (cough, fever, fatigue or difficulty breathing), stay home and call Health Link 811 for testing.
- Travel - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that, barring some exceptions, Canadian borders are closed to non-Canadians. Air operators have also been instructed to refuse service to any travelers to Canada presenting symptoms of COVID 19, and all international flights will land only in Montréal, Vancouver, Toronto, or Calgary.
Latest Update: 5 p.m. March 13, 2020
There is a lot of information to share today. Things are changing rapidly and we are trying to provide as much information as we can to help everyone make informed decisions. Our information today reflects some of the frequently asked questions we are getting from students and staff.
- Schools Remain Open - As mentioned by the Chief Medical Officer of Health in this afternoon’s news conference (March 13), schools in Alberta will remain open. A guidance document for schools and child care programs is in development and will be made available online at alberta.ca/COVID19.
- Athletics – The Alberta Schools Athletics Association has postponed indefinitely basketball and wrestling provincials. We have cancelled our participation in regionals/zones this weekend. NLPS is also cancelling all sports between schools (no games between two or more schools).
- Events – As per the recommendation from Alberta Health yesterday, events of more than 250 in a room, or more than 50 if it includes seniors and/or international participants, must be postponed or cancelled. We have been cancelling many events at our schools as well as field trips where more than 250 would be gathered.
- Parent Teacher Interviews – We plan to proceed with Parent Teacher Interviews, however the format may be modified at some schools and events scheduled to coincide with the interviews may be cancelled or postponed.
- Travel - According to Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health “Travel outside Canada is not recommended at this time. Given the rapid global spread of COVID-19, it is no longer possible to assess health risks for the duration of the trip.” NLPS is encouraging all staff and families to avoid travel outside of the country. See the links below for where to find updates on travel advisories and advice.
- Travel - All travellers returning from outside Canada on or after March 12 should isolate for 14 days and monitor for symptoms. If symptoms develop (cough, fever, fatigue or difficulty breathing), stay home and call Health Link 811 for testing. NLPS is strongly urging all staff and families who return from trips outside the country to comply with these recommendations and not to attend school.
- NLPS is requesting that parents keep all children who are not feeling well at home. Your child’s school may call you and ask you to pick up your child if they are showing signs of being ill.
- All bus contractors and drivers have been reminded of NLPS standards for cleaning. Buses will continue to be cleaned on a daily basis.
- In addition to following good handwashing practices, there are some other things staff and students can to help HELP PREVENT THE SPREAD. This includes self-isolating if you feel sick, covering coughs and sneezes, and avoid touching your face.
- Alberta Health advises that if you have symptoms of COVID-19 and recently travelled outside Canada or were exposed to someone who has COVID-19, stay home and call Health Link 811 for instructions. Do not go to an ER or clinic.
- AHS has created a new online self-assessment tool that should be available within the next 24 hours at ahs.ca/covid
- Self-isolation guidelines are available on the Alberta Health website as well: Self-Isolation Information Sheet
- Alberta Health COVID-19 Coronavirus Information for Albertans - website that includes links to the latest information regarding COVID - 19
- Northern Lights Public Schools - this is where we are posting our updates
- For health-related questions or concerns, please call Health Link at 811
- For Travel
Latest Update: 5 p.m. March 12, 2020
Northern Lights continues to monitor the evolving situation with COVID-19 and we are in contact with Alberta Health and Alberta Education. We will be following any recommendations or directives for schools issued with respect to COVID-19.
Here are some of the things that are being done in the division and our schools:
- On March 12, Alberta Health recommended that all large gatherings (defined as more than 250 people) be cancelled.
- At this time, schools remain open, but we will be taking steps to ensure that not more than 250 people are in the same room at any given time. This will affect activities such as school assemblies.
- We will also be reviewing any upcoming events that may include more than 250 people and will cancel them if needed.
Our custodians are continuing with their regular practice of cleaning all high touch areas (doorknobs, light switches, bathroom stall doors) and surfaces (including student desks) in our schools on a daily basis. The cleaning product we use is Vert 2 Go and it is hydrogen peroxide based. It is approved by Health Canada. Parents are asked to refrain from sending cleaning wipes (such as Lysol wipes) to school as those products can react with the Vert 2 Go product. Schools have access to cleaning wipes to use during the day if needed.
Our schools regularly remind students of the importance of handwashing and good hygiene practices, but we will be placing greater emphasis on this. This will include:
daily announcements focused on handwashing, not touching your face with unwashed hands, and coughing or sneezing into a tissue or your sleeve, etc.
handwashing posters (Handwashing Poster - NLPS) will be placed in all school washrooms and other areas where handwashing might take place
Links for More Information
- Alberta Health COVID-19 Coronavirus Information for Albertans - includes links to the latest information regarding COVID - 19 from Alberta Health
- NASP (National Association of School Psychologists) - a link to a document that is a parent resource for talking to children about COVID-19