Government works on salvaging the rest of the school year

Premier Blaine Higgs says parents shouldn't stress about picking up the academic slack while schools are closed. 

On Monday, Higgs said the number one priority for parents should continue to be the health and safety of their children — and not making up for lost academic time. 

In an effort to salvage the school year, however, he said the province is working on a plan to continue teaching students at home, but it's too early to say what that will look like. 

"I daresay the minister will come forward with details in that regard," Higgs said at his daily afternoon briefing about the COVID-19 outbreak. "We are looking at online programs, we are looking at what can be achieved to continue the education, to salvage what we can from this year, but it's early for me to speculate what that will look like." 

Danielle Elliott, acting director of communications for the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, said "home learning options" won't be available until April "at the earliest." 

Elliott said the department recognizes that "students and parents have many questions around the continuity of learning and the impact on graduation."

She said schools, districts and professional associations will explore "learning options," and the department hopes to have answers in the coming weeks. 

This includes evaluating options for students faced with technological limitations or barriers," said Elliott in an emailed response to questions. "We are also reaching out to third-party partners to explore home-learning opportunities.

"In the meantime, we are encouraging parents and students to focus on their physical and mental well-being," she said.  "Resources are being assembled to guide and support families in this aspect and will be made available in the coming week."

She said teachers will play a vital role in the plan to keep children learning at home. The department is working with the New Brunswick Teachers' Association and other groups to figure out how to move ahead.

Art Raham/CBC News

Teachers in other provinces are struggling with the same issues. 

In Alberta, for example, students will be expected to learn at home under new education guidelines that were announced on Friday. 

Children in kindergarten through Grade 6 will be assigned five hours of school studies each week. Junior high students will be assigned 10 hours of school work per week, and high school students will be assigned an average of three hours of work per course per week.

In Ontario, students can now log on from home to keep up with their math and literacy skills, but the optional work won't count toward their grades.

While Ontario's Ministry of Education calls the Learn at Home online resources "curriculum-linked," it says the activities do not replace what students have been learning at school and won't be graded by their teachers.