Mother relieved in-person school to resume in small town Sask. after challenges with remote learning

·4 min read
From left: Brooklyn Karnes-Herbst, Blake Herbst, Parker Herbst, Carter Karnes and Nixon Karnes.  (Google Meet - image credit)
From left: Brooklyn Karnes-Herbst, Blake Herbst, Parker Herbst, Carter Karnes and Nixon Karnes. (Google Meet - image credit)

A Saskatchewan mother is relieved after hearing her children will be back to in-person learning on Monday.

Brooklyn Karnes-Herbst is working full-time in Regina, her husband is working full-time as a subcontractor and four of their five children are doing remote learning in their community of Pangman, Sask. Pangman is about 90 kilometres south of Regina.

It's a busy time for the blended family. Most of the children — who are aged three, eight, eight, 10 and 10 — are forced to learn on tablets because the family doesn't have the means to buy laptops for each of them.

"It's tough because you want to be as positive as you can for them. But when you're also not really feeling the positivity and when the teachers are showing their frustrations, it's really hard," Karnes-Herbst said.

Karnes-Herbst said it's important they take precautions and stay safe, but they need to balance that with the mental health and quality of learning for students. She said she's relieved the South East Cornerstone School Division is letting some classrooms return to in-person learning with precautions on April 26.

Learning on tablets, iPhone, with slow Internet

Karnes-Herbst currently works from home two days a week and her grandmother watches the children on the other days. Internet access and connectivity is tough in the small town.

"Now, when you get everyone from that area, phone calls are dropping. People can't connect," she said. "The links for their Teams conversations don't come through."

It's honestly making sure that they don't feel at fault because none of this is their fault. - Brooklyn Karnes-Herbst

Karnes-Herbst said it's been incredibly tough on the teachers as well, because they're trying to organize tests or assignments yet children's internet connections cut out. She said she's working to help her children understand it's OK if technology fails.

"It is what it is," she said. "It's honestly making sure that they don't feel at fault because none of this is their fault."

No masks at home but less learning: Children

"It's kind of just even more stressful than at school," Carter Karnes, aged 10, said of learning at home.

When the school closed, Carter and his brother Nixon, also 10, were told to take their textbooks home but not much else. Karnes-Herbst said the boys weren't told there was a positive case within the school.

"I was like, what? Why are we doing remote learning? Because everybody was here at school today. The kindergarten's, every single person in their classes were there," Nixon said.

Nixon Karnes has to currently learn on a tablet in Brooklyn Karnes-Herbst bedroom so that he doesn't have many distractions around.
Nixon Karnes has to currently learn on a tablet in Brooklyn Karnes-Herbst bedroom so that he doesn't have many distractions around. (Google Meet)

Nixon works on a laptop and Carter on a tablet, both in Brooklyn's bedroom. Blake, eight, is at the kitchen counter with an iPhone 6 and Parker, also eight, at the breakfast nook on a tablet. The two couldn't be close together due to feedback from being in the same meeting.

"It's a little bit of both, easy and hard," Parker said.

Meanwhile, Blake said he likes that he doesn't need to wear a mask when at home, but both he and Parker agreed they learn more in school. Carter, Parker and Blake all mentioned they miss their friends.

Blake Herbst had to learn for some time on an iPhone because the family didn't have the means to buy a new laptop.
Blake Herbst had to learn for some time on an iPhone because the family didn't have the means to buy a new laptop. (Google Meet)

Karnes-Herbst said her older boys are feeling overwhelmed also because of the amount of homework that comes with remote learning. Karnes-Herbst said the average person doesn't know how tough this is.

"We've never received anything from the school board asking us if we would be willing to have our children still attend," she said. "We understand that we're taking that risk simply because their mental status and their learning abilities are so much more in-person than on the Internet."

Karnes-Herbst 's children school has about 60 students in Kindergarten to Grade 12. It has its first positive case in early April during the entire pandemic.

"So to clump us in with Weyburn and Estevan is really unfortunate because as a small community, we've had very little cases within even the community," Karnes-Herbst said. "So now you've taken everything away from my kids, including school."

Karnes-Herbst said the importance of schools shows how teachers need to be vaccinated sooner. On Tuesday, the provincial government announced teachers could start booking appointments to be vaccinated late next week.

"Their education is huge and it's on the line right now and that's not fair to these kids."