COVID-19 testing underway as École La-Belle-Cloche prepares for online learning

·4 min read
People line up outside École La-Belle-Cloche Monday to be tested for COVID-19 at a pop-up clinic.  (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)
People line up outside École La-Belle-Cloche Monday to be tested for COVID-19 at a pop-up clinic. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)

Work is underway to roll out virtual learning for students at École La-Belle-Cloche on Wednesday, officials with P.E.I.'s French Language School Board say.

Over the weekend, three new cases of COVID-19 linked to the school in Rollo Bay were announced.

École La-Belle-Cloche will be closed from Monday to Friday with online learning starting Wednesday.

A testing clinic was set up at the school Monday for staff and students.

Gilles Arsenault, superintendent of the board, says work to transition students to an online model begins with guidance from the Chief Public Health Office.

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

"There's a lot of steps that need to be taken, right, to ensure that we look after the safety and the education of our children," Arsenault said.

He said there are 127 students at the school, from kindergarten to Grade 12 and all of them will transition to online learning while the school is closed.

The immediate focus is making sure staff and students who need to be tested are able to do so, he said.

"Today is kind of a turn over day, where people can go and get their test done and we have also to realize that families and the parents that have to adapt as well to this new form of learning, so we want to give them breathing space as well to do that."

It's really just reactivating our virtual learning. — Marise Chapman

Marise Chapman, principal at École La-Belle-Cloche, also has three children who attend the school. She said officials wanted to make sure students and staff have enough time to get tested before teaching resumed.

"We really wanted that opportunity to get tested and not have the feeling that they would miss learning," she said. "So, not learning [Tuesday] in the traditional way but making sure that families are OK and they have everything they need to go through this process."

Transition to virtual learning

Arsenault said the next step is making sure students have access to the technology and equipment they need for online learning. He said the school board provides laptops for students who need them, which would be delivered Monday and Tuesday.

The school board then works with the Department of Education to make sure teachers have all the information they need to teach the online curriculum.

Arsenault said teachers will begin reaching out to parents and students on Tuesday through Google Classroom to ensure students are able to connect online and have access to course materials.

He said new course material will officially roll out on Wednesday when online learning formally begins.

Terri-Stewart MacVane works at the child-care centre at École La-Belle-Cloche, and has two children who go to the school as well.

She said her children won't be able to leave isolation until they present a second test on Thursday, so she's taken the week off work to take care of them.

MacVane said she's particularly worried about how the transition to online learning is going to go for her youngest.

"It gets a little dicey when you're talking about [children] like my son who's in Grade 1 or children who are younger because it's going to be hard to get them to do online learning to begin with," she said.

She also said that the closures could start having an impact on the family's finances if they're extended for long enough.

"It's close to Christmas, and we're pretty concerned about if I'm missing income this month. So we would definitely not be very excited if I had to miss work for an extended period of time."

Options for students with poor internet

Chapman said many grade 7 to 12 classes have been using the online platform regularly throughout the school year and she expects the transition to go smoothly. She said some students at the school have gone to a virtual model before after a positive case was identified there in September.

Brittany Spencer/CBC
Brittany Spencer/CBC

"Many of those tools were already in place, so it's really just reactivating our virtual learning," she said.

"We do have some concerns with technology for certain families or access to good Wi-Fi or good internet service. We are in a rural area so we do have families who do not have internet connections," she added.

Chapman said teachers will contact those families directly and print copies of lessons and class activities will be dropped off to those students.

She also said teachers of younger students will be reaching out directly to parents to talk about how to support their children when it comes to operating a computer.

All schools ready and prepared

Arsenault said the process would be the same for any school within the French board and could be implemented at any time if needed.

"Everything has been looked at in terms of the equipment that's required, the training that's required for teachers," he said.

"The education system has adapted very well in the last year and a half and I can say that today we're way more confident of the way that we can use technology to be able to offer online training for our students."

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