How some P.E.I. schools are staying connected with students during pandemic

There may be no classes this school year because of COVID-19 but some P.E.I. schools are reaching out to students and their families.

Principals are finding some creative ways to keep in touch and to keep students engaged — from online challenges, to photos of all the teachers, to some funny announcements.

Nick Martin is the principal at Parkside Elementary in Summerside and on Monday he made some school announcements and put them on Facebook.

"I wanted to just go through a typical morning with the kids. I just wanted them to see something familiar, so I just read them off like I normally would," he said.

Martin announced birthdays and provided news from the gym and the music department.

"I told a couple jokes for the kids I just wanted to lighten the day for them," he said.

The announcements went over well and Martin said he didn't expect the size of the audience he would get through social media.

"I got a lot of great feedback from parents, from people in the community and of course from the kids giving me back a few jokes themselves," Martin said.

He said with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic it is a confusing time for a lot of people, especially students.

Parkside Elementary School/Facebook

Each month Parkside features a character trait and this month's is "being productive," and more videos may focus on that aspect, Martin said.

"I know that these are trying times for parents and they are not used to having kids at home all the time, so I'm just trying to do things kids can have some fun with and hopefully lighten the load for parents," he said.

Natasha Bromley is the principal at Prince Street Elementary in Charlottetown and she is also reaching out to students. The school put out a video with teachers telling students how much they missed them.

"We wanted it to be the first thing the kids saw when they woke up in the morning," Bromley said.

"We wanted to let them know that we miss them, that we are thinking about them and they know that we love them and we will be together soon."

Bromley said it was great to see how many likes and shares the video got when it was uploaded to Facebook.

Parkside Elementary School/Facebook

Teachers and the student services team at the school have been emailing and phoning families without internet to speak with students.

"That's one thing I've asked them to do, by mid-week to make sure they have been in contact with everyone and if not let us know and we'll try and dig a little deeper to get in touch with everyone," she said.

Bromley said teachers have been reaching out and making sure students and families have enough food and access to all the things they need.

"Our focus is on connecting with them, making sure that they're well, making sure everyone knows how to take care of themselves," she said. "Right now is not the time for the added stress of academics."

Randy Gallant is the principal at Amherst Cove Consolidated in Borden-Carleton. This week he sent out a challenge for students to build a Rube Goldberg machine.

"Rube Goldberg was an engineer by trade but he spent most of his life as a cartoonist. And part of that he drew these really complicated machines that were just performing really simple tasks," Gallant said.

"His drawing kind of grew into competitions, regional or school projects. A lot of people probably have one in their house, the board game Mouse Trap is probably the best known example of a Rube Goldberg machine."

Gallant said he got a great response after posting online over the weekend.

"The next morning the chatter on Facebook was great. A lot of families seem to enjoy the videos and even more importantly a lot saying they were going to take up a challenge."

Chance for connection

Gallant wanted to provide a fun learning opportunity that is more like game than school work and give them an excuse to turn off the TV, he said.

"My daughter and I did one together. It was her physics project in high school and she enlisted myself and I know it was definitely a chance for some great quality father-daughter time."

In the first few weeks before April 6 the school is providing learning resources.

"They are general in nature. We don't want to put any undue stress on families to think they have to be their child's main teacher at this time."

Gallant said the plan is after the two weeks, if school isn't back in session, more course specific materials will be sent out.

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

  • Fever.

  • Cough.

  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

  • Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

More COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.