Update 6 p.m. June 25, 2020
Today was officially the last day of school for students. This time of year is always bittersweet for us and that is especially true this year. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your support, particularly over the last couple of months. We know it has been challenging and we appreciate the way everyone - students, parents, staff, and our community partners - have worked together to meet the needs of our students.
We would also like to thank all of the parents who took the time to complete our School Re-Entry Survey for Parents and encouraged their children to complete the School Re-Entry Survey for Students. To date, we have received input from 360 students, 920 parents and 385 staff members. If you have not already done so, the survey will be open until the end of the day tomorrow (Friday, June 26). The information collected will be invaluable as we plan for the upcoming year.
Normally our communication with parents is minimal over the summer, but this year may be a little bit different. We expect to find out on August 1st which scenario we will be operating under when school starts in September. As soon as we are able, we will share with parents what that means for the new school year. We know you will have many questions and we are committed to sharing as much as we can with you in a timely fashion. This may mean a few more emails prior to the school year than you would normally receive.
We have a few other updates that we would like to share at this time:
Student Learning Activities
We have received many questions about whether or not the folders with the student learning activities will continue to be accessible over the summer. We know many of you want to be able to access the resources that are in those folders to help prepare your children for next year. The folders will remain in place until the end of August. You can access all of the folders using this link: https://www.nlpsab.ca/student-learning-activties
Our school playgrounds re-opened this week and are available for families to access. Please be aware that the equipment is not sanitized. Playground users must comply with gathering restrictions and maintain physical distancing of 2 metres between individuals not from the same household. Additional information about precautions to take in relation to playgrounds is included in the government’s Guidance for Playgrounds document.
We are currently finalizing the process for registering for student transportation for the 2020-2021 school year. We hope to be able to share more information with you in the next couple of weeks.
Update 6 p.m. May 21, 2020
Over the last few months, we have all experienced a lot of change, and for many of us that has also meant an increase in stress and anxiety for ourselves and our children. While everyone at Northern Lights Public Schools has been working hard to continue to offer learning opportunities for students, our primary focus has been, and continues to be, the mental well-being of our students.
As we approach the end of the school year, we know some students will begin to get anxious about the transitions they will be making at the start of the next school year - moving on to a new grade, meeting their new teacher, changing schools - and their concerns may be amplified by anxiety about what school may look like when classes resume. If you think your child would benefit from some help in dealing with these transitions, please discuss your concerns with your child’s teacher, your school’s Student Advocacy Counsellor, or school administration. We continue to have supports in place at all of our schools that are accessible for students and parents, and we encourage you to reach out if you need assistance.
Northern Lights Public Schools continues to work with Alberta Education and education partners across the province to develop guidelines for the three scenarios identified by the Education Minister: classes resuming as normal; classes resuming with some restrictions in place; and the continuation of teacher-directed learning at home. Once those guidelines have been developed, we will share what we can so that you have the information you need to prepare yourselves and your children for the 2020-2021 school year.
This evening, we would also like to share a few updates about things happening in the division:
As part of its commitment to building leadership capacity and ensuring a strong succession plan is in place for the division, Northern Lights Public Schools is making some changes to the administration teams at several schools for the 2020-2021 school year. If there are changes at your school, you should already have received a message with details.
For the full announcements, please check out these links on our website:
Friends of Education
The Northern Lights Public Schools Board of Trustees is now accepting nominations for its 2020 Friends of Education Awards. All parents, students and staff are encouraged to nominate some they feel makes an outstanding contribution to education in NLPS.
The Friends of Education Awards recognize organizations or individuals who have made special contributions to education in Northern Lights Public Schools, either at more than one school or for a significant time frame. This is the 10th year the awards will be presented.
Last year’s award winners were Steve Charlton, Dr. Mohammad Al-Bekai from Generations Eye Care, and Kristen Shewchuk from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lac La Biche. See our profiles of previous Friends of Education Award Recipients for more information.
The Board will be accepting nominations for the 2020 Friends of Education Awards until Friday, June 5. You can submit a nomination by filling out this Google form: 2020 Friends of Education Nomination Form.
Food for Thought Program
Northern Lights Public Schools would like to extend a big thank you to NES SureFlow for their generous donation of 150 reusable shopping bags and $1,650 towards our Food for Thought program this week.
For the last several weeks we have been providing a weekly meal and food hamper to over 300 families throughout the school division. We would also like to thank Lakeland College, Johnson Insurance, and Portage College for donating bags for the program over the last few weeks.
We would like to extend a warm welcome to our new tote bag sponsor for the duration of this year’s program - ThinkWerx in Bonnyville. Thank you for supporting our students!
If your business or organization would like to make a financial contribution to our Food for Thought program please contact Mark Centazzo at our Bonnyville office - 780-826-3145.
Update 6 p.m. May 11, 2020
Thank you so much for your support during Mental Health Week. It was wonderful to see so many Positive Signs and chalked sidewalks around our communities and to see so many photos and videos of families participating in Hats On for Mental Health and the other mental health activities last week.
While it is no longer Mental Health Week, focusing on student mental health remains a priority for the division and we have a number of supports that students can access through our schools. We encourage you to reach out to your child’s teacher, student advocacy counsellor, or school administration for more information on what support you may need for your child and how we can assist you. Information is also available on the Mental Health section of our website.
We also have a few updates for everyone today based on announcements that were made last week:
- Reinstatement of In-Town Busing Fees - At last week’s Board meeting, the Board decided to reinstate transportation fees for in-town busing for the 2020-2021 school year. The division does not currently receive any funding to transport students who live within 2.4 kilometres of the school they are designated to attend. An increase in ridership since fees were eliminated, increasing costs to provide the service, and changes to the overall funding the division receives made offering the service for free unsustainable. Fees will be set at the same rate as what was charged in the 2015-2016 year, prior to fees being eliminated.
In-town busing fees for 2020-2021 will be as follows:
- Kindergarten - Grade 4 (1.6 - 0.8 km from school) - $380 per student per year
- Grades 5-6 (2.4 - 0.8 km from school) - $380 per student per year
- Grades 7-12 (2.4 - 0.8 km from school) - $500 per student per year
Alternate route seats will be available at a cost of $190 per student per year for students in Kindergarten to Grade 6 and $250 per student per year for students in grades 7-12.
The division is currently determining how fees will be collected, what payment options will be available for parents, and what processes will be put in place for parents who cannot afford the fees. Registration for Student Transportation for the 2020-2021 school year will not be available until these details have been finalized. Instructions will be provided to parents once everything has been confirmed.
- Classes Remain Cancelled - As announced by Education Minister Adriana LaGrange last week, in-person classes remain cancelled for the rest of the 2019-2020 school. Teacher-directed at-home learning will continue for the remainder of the school year. All students will receive a report card at the end of the year and all students who were on track to proceed to the next grade level will do so.
- Alberta Education Helpline - Alberta Education has launched a provincial education helpline for families, particularly parents of children with disabilities, who have questions about their child’s program now that the traditional delivery process has changed. Parents can access the helpling by calling 780-422-6548 (toll-free by dialing 310-0000 and then the 10-digit phone number), or by emailing email@example.com.
- Re-Entry Plan - We have been receiving many questions about when schools may re-open and what restrictions may be in place when they do. As announced by Alberta Education last week, no decisions have been made on school operations for the 2020-2021 school year. The province is working with school jurisdictions to develop a re-entry plan that involves three different scenarios: Normal school operations; partial re-opening with some restrictions; and the continuation of teacher-directed at-home learning. When we have more information on what is included in the plan, and what that may mean for Northern Lights, we will share that with you.
As always, if you have questions, please feel free to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or submit your question on our Northern Lights Public Schools Questions and Answers Facebook group.
Update 6 p.m. April 30, 2020
We have a couple of updates for you this evening.
Elementary/Middle School Report Cards and Assessment
Many of you have asked us how we will be assessing our elementary and middle school students, what their final report card will look like, and what supports they will receive when they move on to the next grade in September.
As was stated when classes were cancelled indefinitely in March, each student will receive a final report card at the end of June. This may look a little different than what they have received in the past, but it will include information about how they have progressed as learners.
An important part of what will help our teachers determine how students are doing and what supports they will need when classes resume are the ongoing conversations they are having with students and parents/guardians throughout this experience. We understand that students may not be able to complete every learning activity, however, teachers will continue to check in with their students. These check ins allow teachers to determine how students are doing and to find out what areas students may need help with. Teachers will continue to encourage additional learning activities that students may be doing - reading, writing, art, cooking, etc. and they can suggest alternate activities or additional activities for students to further their learning.
As directed by Alberta Education, all students who were on track to progress to the next grade will. We understand that students may require additional academic support as they proceed to the next grade and are prepared to support our students, when they return to class.
It is difficult to address every scenario or concern in a message being sent to all parents. We encourage you to contact your child’s teacher or school administration with any questions or concerns you have. They will work with you to develop a plan that addresses the needs of your child and family.
We are currently discussing what Summer School may look like this year and working to ensure our plans follow the advice from our Chief Medical Officer of Health. Our intent at this point is to continue to investigate the opportunities for Summer School programming. We hope to have more information to share by the middle of May so that students and parents understand how they may be able to participate in learning throughout the summer.
Update 6 p.m. April 27, 2020
We have a few updates for everyone this week.
One of the most frequently asked questions we have been getting since the end of Spring Break is what is happening with preschool and kindergarten registration and all of the open houses that were planned to take place this month.
We are currently accepting online registrations for Preschool and Kindergarten for the 2020-2021 school year. If your child is already enrolled in preschool, you can register by logging into the Parent Portal, choosing School Engage and completing the 2020-2021 Preschool and Kindergarten Re-Enrolment Form.
If you know someone who is new to NLPS and wants to register their child in preschool or kindergarten, or grades 1-12, please let them know they can also register online using the links on our Registration page.
While we have cancelled all of our early learning open houses, our elementary schools are looking at other ways to showcase their early learning programs using social media. Look for some videos and other opportunities to connect with our schools on their Facebook pages, or give them a call to ask any questions you have or find out what they have planned!
Updated Administrative Procedure
To reflect changes made in the Education Act, we have updated Administrative Procedure 210 - Early Childhood Services. The main change to the AP is the age of entry for students for our Kindergarten programs. The age of entry is now consistent across the province. Effective September 2020, children must be five (5) on or before December 31 of that school year in order to be eligible to attend an NLPS school.
Change to Student Awards
As part of a review of its budget, the Board of Trustees has decided to suspend student awards for high school students who achieve blended marks of 80% in a Provincial Diploma Exam course or Math 31. This suspension will take effect for the 2019-2020 school year and continue for a total of three years, after which it will be reviewed by the Board. This was part of a series of changes made to the Board’s budget to address changes made to the funding the division receives.
Positive Signs Initiative
Thank you to everyone who requested one of our Positive Signs lawn signs. We are going to deliver the signs to everyone who requested one this week and we are looking forward to seeing Positive Signs all over our communities next week during Mental Health Week (May 4-10). Please show your support by creating your own signs and don’t forget to post a picture on social media and use the hashtag #NLPSpositivesigns
Food for Thought
Our second delivery of food for families in need will take place tomorrow (Tuesday, April 28). We would like to thank Johnson Insurance and Portage College for supplying us with bags for this week’s items.
Our Food for Thought program provides a prepared meal or the ingredients for a meal, plus other non-perishable food items to families in need every Tuesday from now until the end of the school year. If your family would like to be added to our Food for Thought program, please contact your child’s school.
Update 7 p.m. April 22, 2020
We have a few updates to share with everyone today.
Inclusive Education and Mental Health Resources - Our Inclusive Education and Mental Health teams are working hard to develop resources for students and parents, which we will be sharing over the next few weeks. We are pleased to share two of these resources today:
- Our Learning with Playdough video was created by our Occupational Therapy Assistant Chrissy Warkentin and has a great recipe for homemade playdough as well as information on how it can be used to support early learning.
- Our Regulation Through Routines handout was developed by our Occupational Therapist Meghan Nowosad to share information about the importance of routines and what you can do to establish them at home.
We are also planning to offer some online sessions for parents covering a variety of Mental Health topics. We would like your feedback on what you would like to learn more about and what times might work best for you and your family. We would appreciate it if you could take a few minutes to provide us with some input in our Mental Health Session Survey.
You will be able to find more helpful resources and information on our website in the next few weeks. We have also added a few more resources and links to the Mental Health section of our website, including resources related to COVID-19 and where to get help if you need it. Our school staff are also available to provide assistance and we encourage you to reach out to your child’s teacher or school to access the resources that are available for your child and family.
Positive Signs Initiative - Our NLPS Positive Signs lawn signs arrived at our Bonnyville office today. You have until noon tomorrow (April 23) to submit your name to host one of our signs for Mental Health Week (May 4-10). Fill out this Google Form if you would like to win a sign!
If you receive a sign or create your own to display positive messages of hope and encouragement, remember to take a picture and share it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #NLPSPositiveSigns.
Playgrounds Closed - To help reduce the spread of COVID-19, all Northern Lights Public Schools playgrounds are closed to the public. Please refrain from using any of the playground equipment at our schools and help prevent the spread.
Food for Thought Nutrition Program - As we announced last week, Northern Lights will be using the funding it receives from the provincial government to distribute food to families in need. The first of our weekly deliveries took place yesterday (Tuesday, April 21) to around 350 students.
Given the current economic circumstances we realize many families may need assistance that we haven’t yet been in contact with. If your family would benefit from receiving our Food for Thought program, please contact your child’s school.
Graduation Ceremonies - Northern Lights has made the difficult decision to postpone graduation ceremonies until the fall. At that time we will reassess the situation and determine what we will be able to do to celebrate our students’ achievements. This may look different than what was originally planned depending on what restrictions are in place at the time.
Our high schools are also looking at alternate ways to recognize this important milestone for our students before the end of the school year and will be contacting parents and students with more details on what that may look like.
Thank you for your continued support.
Update 2 p.m. April 19, 2020
While the government has announced the cancellation of classes for an indefinite period of time, students are still expected to participate in learning from home for the rest of the school year (until the end of June 2020). This includes students in grade 10 to 12. Our high school teachers have been developing plans for each student to address their learning goals and it is important that students connect with their teachers regularly and participate in the learning opportunities provided to them. This may look slightly different for each student depending on what courses they are enrolled in.
Teachers will be assessing student progress in the classes they are enrolled in and assigning a final mark and credits based on that progress. Students will have the opportunity to improve their marks in the courses they are enrolled in. This is especially important for students who may not have been achieving the marks they wanted prior to classes being cancelled. The amount of work a student is required to do for each course may vary depending on what the course is, how well they were doing before classes were cancelled, and whether or not that class is a prerequisite for future courses.
All students who were on track to progress to the next grade will. In providing at-home learning, our goal is to ensure that they are as prepared as possible for the courses they will be taking next year. In some subjects, there is a lot of content that needs to be covered to ensure that students are prepared and will be successful at the next level.
This is the time of year when high schools normally have discussions with parents and students about what courses students should be taking next year. Student participation and engagement between now and the end of June may impact recommendations for next year’s course selection. In addition, students who choose not to participate in at-home student learning for the courses they are enrolled in may struggle with the courses that they are enrolled in next year.
We recognize that the last few weeks have been difficult for everyone and that student participation in at-home learning may be impacted by a variety of factors. Our staff are here to work with you to support your child and their learning. We encourage all parents to connect with their child’s school and teachers to discuss what the expectations are for their child and how those expectations can be met. There are many supports that we can put in place for students who need them and many options we can explore to address the challenges students and families may be experiencing with at-home learning.
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< Posted on