The following message was delivered by Marilyn Dennis, Chair of the Board of Trustees, at the commencement of the April 28 regular public board meeting.
This week is Education Week in Alberta. Every year, we have the opportunity to recognize the important role that education plays in our society. The current theme is “Learning is a Journey.” I think we can safely say that this year, we have all been on an incredible learning journey.
Since in-school classes were cancelled in mid-March due to COVID-19, we have all had to adapt to new ways of working, teaching and learning.
This is different. We know that we can’t possibly replicate what normally happens when students and educators are in classrooms side by side. But we can celebrate the many ways that teaching, learning and connecting are still happening.
Our system did a remarkable job of adjusting quickly. It has not been without challenges, but significant progress has been made and we continue to do our very best to support our students. Over 98 per cent of our 125,000+ students have moved to online learning, 14,000 Google Meet sessions are happening every week and over 6,000 Google Classroom sites have been created since spring break, serving about 80,000 students. Our middle school and high school students attend about 4,500 virtual classroom sessions every week.
Education is a community endeavour and this has never been highlighted more than it is now. We are all in this together! The University of Calgary is calling out for volunteer tutors to provide support to hundreds of students, families are becoming even more involved as they work hard to support their children learning from home and community partners are stepping forward in greater ways to support students.
Many families rely on schools to help feed their children. To date, we have distributed $109,000 in grocery gift cards to schools that are in turn providing them to students and families. We have plans to distribute approximately $280,000 to support students for May and June.
CBE nutrition partners have always worked to support children facing food insecurities. With the cancellation of classes, these partners realized that many students and families would be missing the nutrition supports they access daily. With deep gratitude we recognize Brown Bagging for Calgary Kids, Calgary Meals on Wheels and the Calgary Food Bank, Breakfast Clubs of Canada and President’s Choice Children’s Charities.
Much work has been done to support students in getting access to the technology they need in this environment of remote learning. As of last week our IT department and schools had handed out approximately 2,400 student loaner devices - laptops, Chromebooks, iPads.
The CBE continues to collaborate with the Electronic Recycling Association and Computers for Schools to obtain computers that can be passed on to students. Both of these organizations receive donations of used computer equipment, does the work of wiping the hard drive and then makes the equipment available to families through the CBE.
In addition, EducationMatters, Calgary’s public education trust, has raised more than $33,000 to buy technology for students who need it. Thank you to everyone who has made a contribution to this campaign.
Connection is important. Relationships are important. We have seen parades where staff drive through the streets of the neighbourhoods where their schools are located in order to wave to their students. We are seeing videos created by staff and messages in school windows letting students know that our staff are thinking of them, are missing them and are looking forward to when they can be learning and teaching side by side in our classrooms once again. Tributes from students to workers providing essential services, music teachers making music outside of long-term care residences, and students creating a positive message hotline for seniors in isolation. Every one of these actions have impact and remind us all that we are not taking this journey alone.
These are challenging times and adjusting to learning at home and being separated has not been easy. We are incredibility grateful for the way our students, staff, families and community have come together to face the challenges presented by this COVID-19 crisis.
Thank you so much. Take care and stay well.
information about Education Week in Alberta.