As most of you are already aware, Alberta Education announced last night (Thursday, December 30) that the winter break would be extended for all Alberta students until Monday, January 10 and that diploma exams have been cancelled for high school students. The announcement is available online: Winter break extended for K-12 students.
Since the announcement was made we have been receiving many questions from parents/guardians, including how this impacts preschool programming, if it applies to students in our online school (Learning Together Anywhere), and what restrictions may be in place when students return back after the break. NLPS Board Chair Karen Packard, Superintendent Rick Cusson and senior administration participated in meetings with Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange and Alberta Education officials today to seek clarification on the announcement and many of the questions that parents have shared with us. In addition, the Minister of Health and Chief Medical Officer of Health made additional announcements this morning.
Here are the answers to some of the questions we have been receiving:
When will students return to school?
As announced by Alberta Education, students will not return to school as planned on Monday, January 3. The winter break has been extended to Monday, January 10. This is not a shift to online learning. Classes will not take place during this time (January 3- 7) and students are not required to connect with their teachers or to complete assignments. There will also be no extracurricular activities, including sports practices, during that time.
At this time, we expect and are planning to return to in-person classes on Monday, January 10. However, the Minister of Education has stated that next week will be used to assess the impacts of the Omicron variant on staffing levels and student attendance and Alberta Education may make further announcements regarding in-person learning and/or additional restrictions next week. We will be providing Alberta Education with all of the information that is requested as well as providing input and local context if we are given that opportunity.
What restrictions will be in place when students return?
The province will be providing school divisions with optional rapid testing kits and medical grade masks to distribute to students. These are expected to arrive at schools the week of January 10-14th. We will share more information about how distribution of those supplies will work once we have received them.
While there has been speculation about restrictions being added to the guidelines schools were following prior to the winter break, nothing has been confirmed at this time. We expect to hear more about potential restrictions, if any, next week and will share any changes with staff and parents/guardians in advance of students returning to in-person classes.
Will staff be accessible to parents/guardians and students next week?
Parents/guardians and students who need to contact staff next week will be able to do so. However, staff will not be providing students with work to be completed at home during the extended break.
Staff will be using the extended break to prepare for in-person and at-home learning scenarios. As part of that, they may be contacting parents/guardians of some students to discuss individual student needs.
Inclusive education services and counselling services will not be provided during the extended break. Families who require mental health services during the extended break are encouraged to contact our community service providers. We have posted Community Resources on our website who may be able to provide assistance.
What about Learning Together Anywhere School? Will there be classes for those students?
The extended winter break will also apply to students enrolled in our Learning Together Anywhere School. Classes will not take place during the week of January 3-7. Classes will resume on January 10.
What about preschool? Are those programs operating next week?
Our preschool and out of school programs will not be operating during the week of January 3-7.
What is happening with diploma exams and provincial achievement tests?
Alberta Education has announced that provincial diploma exams that were scheduled for January have been cancelled.
Provincial achievement tests for Grade 6 and 9 students will be rescheduled. Schools will share the updated schedule with parents/guardians once it has been confirmed.
As always, if you have questions about anything in this email, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or you can submit a question in our Northern Lights Public Schools Questions and Answers Facebook group.