By Mick Jensen
A new school term starts next Wednesday and students around the district will be learning at home with the support of teachers and parents.
Where possible, students will be able to log in for remote learning using the internet, while others will use hard copy workpacks to maintain their education during lockdown.
Ashburton College principal Ross Preece said his staff had worked hard to prepare for distance learning and the start of Term 2 on April 15.
He said many of the courses were already available via the Google communities or other electronic means. But, a number of courses had huge practical components and learning for those was being “modified and accommodated as was viable”.
Staff were still compiling numbers, but indications were that around 60 of the school’s 1200 students had no device for online learning, while five families had no internet.
That information was being passed on to the Ministry of Education. The ministry’s website had crashed on Monday because many of the country’s 2800 schools were uploading data to the master list, he said.
Mr Preece said the reality of Term 2 could see sports, events, assemblies, trips, the college ball and other distractions postponed, so schools could catch up on missed work.
That was particularly important for students involved in NCEA.
Mr Preece said the lockdown had already created a stressful situation at home and meant students could not hang out with their friends.
He urged parents not to push students to do too much school work because that would also add to their stress levels.
It is a similar story at Ashburton Intermediate where students are being also surveyed to see if they are capable of working online at home.
Principal Brent Gray said so far there had been 269 responses from the 437 children at the school and just a handful had no internet access, and a dozen or so had no dedicated device to use.
“Like other schools we did give out hard copy workpacks at the end of last term to those who thought they might not be be able to access work online. We probably gave out 70-80 of those.”
Mr Gray said his teachers had set up online classrooms and some had also been continuing to communicate with students during lockdown.
“Come Wednesday, students will use devices if they can, and those that can’t will be expected to use their workbooks.”
At Netherby School all students were given workpacks on the last day of term.
Principal Phil Wheeler said it was important for students to maintain their learning routine during lockdown.
While learning online was a good option, a number of students at his school did not have access to the internet or devices at home. Teachers would touch base with all parents this week to assess online capability. Comprehensive workbooks had been compiled by teachers in syndicate and they would enable students to continue to learn the basic facts and to maintain reading and writing levels outside of the classroom.
If the lockdown continued for longer, the Ministry of Education would have to decide how to distribute more workbooks to students, or even look at how it could offer devices and connectivity to families.