Schools in Mi’kmaw communities in Cape Breton are trying a new hybrid model for teaching because of COVID-19.
This will see many students spend half of their time in the classroom, and the other half doing online classes from home.
Each of the five school districts have a different model depending on the size of the schools, and amount of students.
Brian Arbuthnot, CEO of Wagmatcook First Nation, said a lot of work has been done to make this work for everyone.
“All of our communities are a little bit different. We’re different school sizes, different population sizes, and different numbers of staff,” he said. “I think everybody was kind of left with the idea that we were going to focus on health and safety protocols for our children.”
Classes divided into groups
Eskasoni First Nation, for example, has split classes into separate groups. Students in Group A have classes every Monday and Wednesday. Group B students go to school every Tuesday and Thursday.
Elizabeth Cremo, director of education for Eskasoni First Nation, said students will do online classes when not in school, including everyone on Fridays.
“This gives teachers opportunities to plan, to reach out to parents at home, bring students in by appointment if they require extra help, and make parent meetings on those days,” she said.
Membertou First Nation will only be using the hybrid model with its younger grades. Pre-primary to Grade 4 students will be split up in groups, with students either going to school in the morning or afternoon.
Students in Grade 5 to 8 will attend classes the entire day, but will have a longer lunch break to allow for better cleaning.
Darren Googoo, director of education for Membertou First Nation, said they will use staff from their closed youth centre to help with classroom sanitization, and for monitoring physical distancing.
“We’ve simply absorbed them into our school environment for this year, as well to give our staff a little bit more space and freedom to do what they need to do to be successful,” Googoo said.
Off to a good start
Wagmatcook First Nation has had students back since Aug. 31. Their model sees students in school 50 per cent of the time and online the rest. Arbuthnot said so far everything has worked out well.
“The kids adapted really nicely, we had good communication with the parents throughout the summertime, and I think everybody was pretty much ready for wearing a mask and lining up and social distancing,” said Arbuthnot.
Arbuthnot said if a student or staff contracts COVID-19 they will close the affected school, and consider a new learning approach.
Potlotek First Nation and We’koqma’q First Nation are also using the hybrid teaching model. They couldn’t be reached on specific details.