Dramatic changes are coming to New Brunswick’s education system as it anticipates the novel coronavirus pandemic will persist well into the 2020-21 school year.
Education Minister Dominic Cardy provided details on the new approach at a news conference on Friday.
“It is not business as usual,” said Cardy, adding that students, parents and teachers need to be prepared not to return to the same classroom they left.
“But (students) need to be put back in a position for long-term success.”
Cardy said full-time learning will be mandatory, but it will look different depending on a students’ grade level.
In New Brunswick, students from kindergarten up to Grade 8 will attend school full time.
They will be in groups throughout the day, and those groups will start at staggered intervals, eat lunch together and enter schools through specific entrances.
Students in kindergarten to Grade 2 will be in groups of 15.
Groupings for each grade will remain as close to 15 as possible until grades 6 to 8, which will have groups that match up with regular class sizes.
Grades 9 to 12 will not be grouped as a result of different class schedules and will be expected to attend school at a minimum of every other day.
When in school, high school students will follow physical-distancing rules.
High school students who are not physically in school will be engaged through guided projects and online learning.
Principals will develop plans that fit best with their individual schools, Cardy said, and those plans may include where and when students receive temperature checks.
Cardy stressed that Friday’s announcement was not meant to answer every question people have regarding the upcoming school year but instead provide a basic idea of what students and parents should expect.
Some students may have to change schools in order to accommodate smaller class sizes, Cardy said, while other students who have medical concerns may not come back to school at all.
The education department is still exploring how to best accommodate those students.
Details on how students will be transported to and from schools are still being determined.
The education minister said public access to schools will change and that individuals will have to make appointments in advance.
Parents will be asked to not drop off their children at school, while parent-teacher conferences will be held over the phone or through videoconference.
In May, the province spent $860,000 to help equip students with new technology and assist remote learning.
The funds helped purchase 1,000 iPads, 500 laptops and 300 MiFi data hubs.
Cardy said the equipment will also be available in September and will be accessible to students who are learning from home, although the department continues to evaluate the needs of students.
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