P.E.I. parents coping with at-home learning as Omicron closes schools

·3 min read
Melissa Creamer, centre, with her daughter Abagail, left, and son Landon, says teachers have been available to help answer her questions as she helps teach her daughter at home. (Submitted - image credit)
Melissa Creamer, centre, with her daughter Abagail, left, and son Landon, says teachers have been available to help answer her questions as she helps teach her daughter at home. (Submitted - image credit)

The last couple of days have seen a resumption of at-home learning for many Prince Edward Island students, and some parents are finding the process daunting.

The province announced Tuesday schools on the Island will remain closed after the holiday break until at least Jan. 17, in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19. That left many parents scrambling to find care for their children or find ways to remain at home with them to facilitate learning.

"It's definitely multi-tasking to try to keep them on task when they're home," said Melissa Creamer, a single parent with a daughter in Grade 4 and a young son with special needs.

Not only that, but Creamer said she's had to relearn what she needs to help teach her daughter.

"Even though it's only Grade 4, some of the math — I haven't been taught the new ways of math," she said.

She said she is relieved that so far the load of at-home schoolwork has not been heavy.

"It's kind of minimal for her: 20 minutes of reading, maybe a half-hour of math, and if she can do some writing, 20 minutes of writing — that's the requirement right now," Creamer said.

'It's pretty tough'

Some child-care centres offering after-school care have pivoted to provide full-day programs.

Steve Bruce/CBC
Steve Bruce/CBC

Staff at Milestones Early Learning Centre in Stratford say they can't effectively teach children, however — that must still fall to parents.

"Our educators, their main responsibility is the well-being and caring of children," said Kellie Davies with Milestones. She noted the centre doesn't have or use the same software teachers expect students to use to access remote learning.

My message to parents is just do your best. You're juggling a lot of things right now. — Erin Johnston

The province announced a $125 allowance per child per week for families who need to access child care during remote learning. There will be no income test — all parents and guardians with school-aged children are eligible to apply.

Education Minister Natalie Jameson said the province will pay child-care centres directly, or provide the money to families to hire private child-care operators or a babysitter for respite care. Parents and guardians can fill out applications online starting Friday, she said.

"This is tough on many families," Jameson acknowledged, noting she herself has two young children. She said she hopes the school closures won't extend past Jan. 17, but if they do, the allowance will remain available.

Attendance will be tracked

Many Island schools at all levels have told parents attendance will be tracked, and say teachers will reach out to parents or guardians if students aren't engaged.

Erin Johnston, the principal at Elm Street Elementary in Summerside, said teachers are being flexible and understanding, especially at the elementary school level.

"If a teacher is offering a live discussion or live lesson, they're recording that and making it available to parents, so parents and students can access it really whenever they wish," Johnston said.

"There's also choice available — try this activity or try that activity, whatever suits the family dynamic or the home. Really, at the end of the day, my message to parents is just do your best. You're juggling a lot of things right now."

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