Parents faced the dilemma of sending their children back to in-person classes or keeping them home with online or hybrid learning curriculums little more than a month ago.
Alongside normal back-to-school preparations and worries, were the added fears of potential exposure to COVID-19 and the uncertainty of whether schools would be able to stay open or face closures similar to those in March at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Christ the Redeemer (CTR) had a much higher rate of return to regular school than most divisions,” said superintendent for Christ the Redeemer Catholic School Division, Dr. Scott Morrision. “In fact, 95 per cent of CTR students returned to their traditional schools, and St. Anthony’s return rate was 96 per cent.”
Dr. Morrison attributes part of the successful return rate was to allow students and parents to explore both in-school and online learning options.
Initially, this was only to be offered for the first week back to school, however, Christ the Redeemer extended flexibility until the end of September. This allowed parents and students to try both options “without having to make a firm commitment.”
Another success for the district was piloting live streamed classes; locally, St. Anthony’s was included in the pilot.
Live streaming allows students to continue learning, even if they need to isolate or quarantine without disruptions to their learning. A Christ the Redeemer school in Okotoks utilized live streaming when 19 students had to self-isolate, allowing them to continue lessons from the first day of isolation.
Dr. Morrison noted most students who started with online learning transitioned back to traditional in-school lessons. “St. Anthony’s is a bit of an outlier as all their students that began online have stuck with it.”
An outlier is defined as a person or thing which is different from all other members of a group or set.
Golden Hills School Division has also noticed similar trends in enrollment according to superintendent Dr. Bevan Daverne.
“We do have a small number of families that have opted for the Learning at Home program with our school division, but overall we have not seen the high percentages experienced in the metros,” Dr. Daverne told the Mail.
He added class sizes in the district were “already lower” compared to others in the province, so the reductions in numbers may not be immediately noticeable to parents.
“On the other hand, our online schools have experienced significant growth from students outside our district, and we have added staff to accommodate the additional enrollment,” Daverne said.
Prairie Land School Division did not provide comment on their enrollment numbers for either in-class or online learning.