‘We’ll be ready for it’: Schools in Winnipeg School Division rehearse remote learning procedure

Schools in the Winnipeg School Division rehearsed how remote learning would work Tuesday, should schools have to shut down due to COVID-19.

When the pandemic first hit Manitoba in March, in-class learning was suspended and schools had to adjust to remote learning on the fly.

With COVID-19 cases in Manitoba now rising, the Winnipeg School Division emailed teachers last week informing them of the mock “code red” exercise slated for Tuesday morning, so they and students will be better prepared in the event of another shutdown.

For students and staff at Montrose School, a nursery to Grade 6 school in the River Heights neighbourhood, the trial went well, said principal Suzanne Mole.

“We know that when remote learning learning comes, we’ll be ready for it,” said Mole.

“Teachers have learned that we can get ready for pretty much anything in the last six months. So having a fire drill just sort of pushed us to try it.”

The walk-through showed students how to log on and use the necessary systems, such as Google Meet and Seesaw, a remote-learning app. The rehearsal allowed teachers and students to troubleshoot issues, such as forgotten passwords, and illuminated gaps in strategy, said Mole.

It also gave teachers a chance to address concerns and confusion students may have around remote learning, she said. Many students are worried about their families, their health and when there could be a return to normalcy if schools do close again.

Students picked up the systems quickly, and teachers learned their young students are more independent than they may have realized, said Mole.

One of the challenges ahead, however, will be ensuring there is still a sense of community, if remote learning takes effect. Staff want the students to maintain a connection to the school and be ready to return to class, she said.

If schools in the division have to switch to remote learning, classes for Montrose School students will be divided up into small chunks of online teaching and independent work, in order to keep the young students’ attention, said Mole.

The online teaching could include a session on Google Meet, or students watching a video of their teacher reading a book. There will also be suggestions for outdoor learning opportunities, which play a big role at the school, said Mole.

Montrose School has received no indication that remote learning is on the way yet.

As of Nov. 17 — the last date for which total numbers available, due to delays entering data — Manitoba had recorded 675 cases of COVID-19 in schools, a spokesperson for the province said. That number includes 513 students and 162 staff.