Fisher River Education Authority (FREA) has provided free laptops or iPads and internet connection devices to students in the Fisher River Cree Nation community.
Around 230 students from Grade 5 to 12 received a Toshiba laptop as well as MiFi boxes to transition them into online learning.
It is estimated that students from nursery to Grade 4 will be getting their iPads within the next six weeks.
“Just from word of mouth as well as comments and posts on Facebook, parents and children are extremely happy and grateful with what they have received,” said Davin Dumas, the director of FREA on Monday.
Initially, Fisher River was going to provide a blended model whereby students will do some in-home learning as well as learning in school.
However, Fisher River Health Services was notified on Sept. 9 that there was a positive COVID-19 case in the community, which then changed the FREA’s plan regarding the blended model.
“At that point, we decided to go full online learning for the majority of our students with the additional printed materials,” said Dumas.
In October, the laptops and MiFi devices were picked up by parents and students at the high school in Fisher River.
Students can keep the laptops and iPads provided but, the MiFi device is the property of the Fisher River Board of Education (FRBOE) and therefore must be returned when students move back to in-class learning.
“We are giving the laptops and iPads to the children because we want them to take ownership and responsibility for items that will belong to them,” said Dumas.
The FRBOE will cover the monthly subscription cost associated with the device until February.
The MiFi boxes were provided so students can connect with their teachers and classmates as well as engage in learning and research.
The FREA managed to purchase the laptops, iPads and MiFi boxes at affordable pricing by ordering in bulk.
Although Dumas was not able to pinpoint a specific amount, he noted that the FREA had received considerable funding from the Government of Canada to support this initiative.
Students Grade 5 and above, as well as students Grade 4 and below, are receiving different electronic items due to the programs they are utilizing and the number of times students are going to be online.
“The older the student, the longer they are going to be online. The younger they are, the least amount of time they spend online,” said Dumas.
Those Grade 4 and below will be communicating with their teachers using Zoom classroom through the iPads.
The iPad is mostly used so that teachers can check in on their students to see how they are doing and their progress with work packages sent to their homes.
For Grade 5 to Grade 8 students, the teachers will utilize Microsoft Teams where teachers can conduct video conferences as well as post homework where students can complete and hand in straight after.
High school students are currently using the Wapaskwa Virtual Collegiate (WVC), an online high school operated by the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre.
Teachers from the Fisher River high school will use the interactive courses offered by the WVC to educate their students.
Nicole Wong is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Nicole Wong, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun