With a protest by parents and high school students planned at the Confederation Building at 1:30 today, the Department of Education has sent notice that a blended back-to-school program will be adopted next week.
“Following consultation between the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District (NLESD), the Department of Education, the Chief Medical Officer of Health and Public Health officials, NLESD is moving forward with plans that maximize in-class instruction for high school students while adhering to updated public health guidance,” a statement read.
High school students who are currently attending online classes will move into a blended learning model similar to the Scenario 2 proposal proposed in the Return to School plan last summer.
High school classes will be split into two groups and students will alternate between in-class instruction and online attendance, with access five days each week. On days when students are not physically in class, they will be able to access the classroom remotely with their peers via Google Classroom.
The changes will take effect throughout the province starting on Wednesday, April 14. Educators will be provided two days for transition time and professional learning on Monday, April 12, and Tuesday, April 13, during which time the Easter Break will be extended for high school students currently learning online.
“Under this new guidance, classes that are not able to maintain cohorts in a school setting, including high school classes, are required to divide students into two separate groups who will attend in-person on alternating days,” the department said. “This, combined with the requirement for students to wear masks in school, should maximize distancing while minimizing the risk of transmission in a school setting.”
The model does not apply to the Francophone School District, which is already operating at full capacity in the classroom.
Education Minister Tom Osborne and NLESD CEO Tony Stack have scheduled a news conference later this afternoon to explain the changes.
“Our number one priority has always been to keep students in school when it is safe to do so,” Osborne said in the release. “We recognize the value of in-person instruction, and it is my hope that if we all remain mindful of public health guidelines we can maintain this approach for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.”
Added NLESD board chair Coronwy Price: “Our trustees have advocated for ways to maximize in-class learning for students, recognizing it is the optimal environment to address students’ learning needs, as well as their social-emotional and mental well-being.”
A spokesman for the parents said the protest today is still going ahead.