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Retention is not the best option in response to pandemic

The Province of Alberta, along with Lethbridge School Division, recognizes the challenges we have all encountered shifting from face to face to online, and back again since March of 2020. This has been a difficult year for all of us. Teachers have instructionally stretched in ways they have never before experienced, parents have had to be creative with childcare on a dime and students have had to explore different levels of independence and learning. 

This year has presented with challenges to learning and teaching that everyone has done their best to respond to. As we move into next year, anticipating fewer pandemic pressures, educators are discussing the importance of understanding where each student’s learning is when they commence the next school year. The Province and the Division appreciate there will be deficits or gaps in learning because of the ongoing changes and breaks in learning throughout this pandemic year.

Staff are aware of the gaps in student learning that may present in September onward. We appreciate that it is beneficial to assess where students are at to measure progress and gauge instruction.  Receiving teachers will communicate with past teachers to facilitate continuity in programming for students and differentiate to support diverse learning needs that present in the classroom.

Given the reality this pandemic has presented to us all, parents may be worried or concerned about how to support their child best returning to school in the fall. Some may even be considering retention for their children. Our professionals know that retention for the majority of our students is not the appropriate response, and Lethbridge School Division will continue to support and work with your children in the best way socially, emotionally, physically and cognitively.

Here are some suggestions from teachers and other parents on how best to support your child moving forward recognizing their struggles:

  1. Get to know your child’s teachers. You can send an introduction at the beginning of the year, you may wish to book a meeting earlier in the year to meet your child’s teacher. Building a positive parent-teacher rapport sooner than later is helpful as it will prepare your teacher for your child and they will appreciate your perspectives.

  2. Create a routine when students return home daily (even in the summer). Getting your child into a routine when they return home on a school day assists the child in feeling like they have predictability, control  and they can begin to understand priorities. Having them build it is best ! For example, supporting a “Homework” hour from 6-7 p.m. consistently (where there are no social texts or phone call/facetime chat) adds structure to an evening that could be used to game.

  3. Keep activities and friendships alive. Some parents may panic or be concerned when they see their child struggling with academics and may deliberately remove “distractions” to focus more time on academics. Many child development advocates encourage children/youth to participate in extra-curricular activities to maintain positivity and purpose.  Mental wellness and positive connection is a key contributor to academic success- maintain activities and friendships they are important!!

  4. Read in the summer!!! One of the challenges our teachers encounter in September is the phenomena called “the summer slide”. This is a decline in reading ability that can occur over the summer months. Establishing a routine of “reading time” for your child in the summer will best support their growth and appreciation for reading during the summer. If your child is a reluctant reader read with or to them, ensure they are reading something they are interested in.
Changes made to Division's Pandemic Plan Jackie Fletcher appointed principal for Fleetwood-Bawden Elementary School