Edmonton students have a choice again this fall as school divisions are offering online and in-person learning starting in September.
Pre-enrolment for Edmonton Public Schools begins Monday and runs until April 15, during which time students may choose which school they wish to attend.
Between June 21 and Aug. 12, public school students will be asked to specify whether they want to learn remotely from home or attend classes in person.
Kathy Muhlethaler, assistant superintendent of operations and learning services, said options are important as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and people's comfort levels change.
"There are families that are feeling really confident that yes, now I want to go back to in-person learning, we've been online all year," Muhlethaler said during a news conference Friday.
'I got to tell you, teachers want their kids back' - Kathy Muhlethaler, Edmonton Public Schools
Some families aren't ready for that yet, Muhlethaler acknowledged.
"We want to honour that choice for families and that has been such an important part of our reentry plan."
After the Aug. 12 deadline, families will not be free to change their minds, the division noted.
The first semester runs from Sept. 2, to Jan. 28.
While online learning will continue to be an option into 2022, the division is aiming to bring the majority of students back for in-person classes by February.
"I got to tell you, teachers want their kids back," Muhlethaler said. "You walk into your school and you feel the energy of the school environment."
Of the district's 103,000 students at 214 schools, about 30 per cent have opted to learn remotely since last September.
Many are thriving in the online environment, Muhlethaler said, while others are missing their friends and in-person interaction.
If the province continues to require strict safety protocols into 2022 because of COVID-19, the school division will readjust.
"[If] parents feel, based on the information from Alberta Health, that they're a little nervous about that option, then we will open up choice again for the second half for parents to choose either online or in-person learning."
Families who've already decided that they want to take classes exclusively online for the entire year are directed to enrol with the public schools' Argyll Centre.
Argyll Centre runs teaching-at-home programs, online programming, the K-9 Caraway Program and summer classes.
Edmonton Catholic Schools is holding early registration with parents and students asked to specify their preference for in-person or online instruction by March 22.
"Your cooperation is critical as this is a significant step in the preparations and planning necessary at the respective school level," the website says.
Families will be able to make a final decision before the beginning of the school year and the division will give notice of the official deadline.
However, when school starts, families are asked to stick with their choice of online or in-person.