CORRESPONDENCE #9: Update: Start of Distance Learning - March 20, 2020 at 2:00 pm

Dear Parent(s)/Guardian(s): 

Our thoughts and prayers are with you as we respond to this crisis and plan for your child’s continued learning. We apologize for the length of this letter, but please read carefully as all the information is very important to your child’s continued learning and will give you direction as we move forward. We recognize there will be many questions, especially at high school and we will need some time to answer some of the more specific ones. 

A reminder that Christ The Redeemer (CTR) Catholic Schools sends all critical messages to parents directly via email from the school principals. Some of these messages are then posted at www.redeemer.ab.ca and on our social media sites. The Centre for Learning @HOME’s program is continuing with only minor modifications. Principal Paul Byrne will communicate all programming considerations for those students in another message to parents in the coming days. 

Using the Distance Learning system described in this email, we expect students to receive a final grade and progress to their next school level as they would in normal circumstances. Grade 6 and 9 Provincial Achievement Tests and Grade 12 Diploma Exams are cancelled. Diploma Exam teachers will be teaching as described below and assigning their own final grades. Our plans are focused on ensuring we will still prepare students for post-secondary admission.

Lesson Delivery - Grades K to 12

Beginning Tuesday, March 24, CTR will be continuing your child’s education with a weekly email system. Grades K-3 students will receive lessons in English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Religion. Grades 4 -12 students will receive lessons in English Language Arts, Mathematics, Social Studies, Science(s), and Religion. We consider Religion a core course, but the Grades K-9 materials sent home are to support your child’s faith development, and they are optional and are not graded. Grade 10-12 Religion courses will continue using the same criteria we have for Grade 10-12 complementary courses, as described later in this letter. 

CTR has developed guidelines for the lesson plan format, the volume of work, and the grading that our teachers will follow. Our guidelines are reasonable and we are purposefully trying to reduce workload and stress by prescribing reasonable “required” work and “optional” supplementary work each week. Our guidelines adhere to the provincial guidelines. 

The division has directed each teacher to send one email, every Monday before noon, outlining Distance Learning lessons for the week in each of the core subjects. For this first upcoming week, lessons will be sent before noon on Tuesday, March 24. Teachers will be available throughout the workday via email (or some alternate methods that teachers may ask parents/students to use) to answer any questions from you or your child. Teachers will identify the most essential learning outcomes in each subject and limit their teaching to those outcomes; this will represent basic instruction. Learning activities above and beyond basic instruction will be optional and ungraded. Teachers will make all activities as simple to understand and complete as possible. Teachers will collect certain core assignments for grading. We’ve directed teachers to collect no more than one graded activity per course, per week.

Schools are beginning with this weekly email system to deliver lessons, and may introduce a system that is less email intensive in the future. We are aware that, despite our best intentions, there may be too many emails every Monday morning, especially for parents with more than one child in Grades 7 to 12. We apologize in advance. 

CTR recognizes that some parents will not have the time or resources to supervise the completion of these activities with young children, and we completely understand. We’ll do our best and you do your best.   

More generally, principals also have broad discretion with individual students based on this statement from the Minister: 

“Where possible, schools will work with high school students to complete their courses to the best of their ability, providing a final mark and awarding credits. If a student is unable to complete a course that would have allowed them to progress to the next grade, principals have the ability to award credits to ensure student progression.” 

The implications of this authority are broad, and our administration will need some time to consider all of them and how they might apply to individual students and their career and post-secondary plans. 

Grade 12 Diploma Requirements/Courses

The Ministry states:

“Principals have the ability to award up to 15 credits to students in Grade 12 whose program has been negatively impacted by class cancellations. For any courses that are started, schools will complete them with the student to the best of their ability, provide a final mark and award credits.” 

There are some consequences and considerations related to this discretion that principals will communicate directly to parents and students in the coming weeks. It is our expectation that all students complete their Distance Learning plan as this will have the fewest unintended consequences.

Grades K to 9 Complementary Courses (Options)

At the Grades K-9 level, students will be assigned final grades in complementary courses (options) for work done before classes were cancelled. Complementary course teachers may assign pass/fail grades rather than percentages if they don’t have enough work collected. Pass/Fail grades do not impact student averages. Complementary course activities MAY be provided in the future as an option for students. Any additional learning activities in complementary courses are considered either optional or for bonus assignments to boost existing grades.

Grades 10-12 Complementary Courses (Options)

All complementary courses (options) in Grades 10-12, are suspended for at least two weeks. 

The Ministry states: 

“If the student is unable to complete a course that would have led them to achieving a high school diploma, such as a work experience or a career and technology studies course, principals have the ability to award credits to ensure the student graduates.”

Again, there are some considerations and unintended consequences related to this that principals will need time to fully understand and then make very clear to students.

Our goal is to facilitate the completion of as many Grades 10-12 complementary courses as possible. In Grades 10-12 complementary courses (including Religion in this instance), our preliminary plan is to design one final project for each complementary course, so students can complete the course and earn a final grade.  

Technology

Schools will develop an alternate system for those without technology, as necessary. Principals are authorized to loan Chromebooks or comparable devices to those in need.

Communication

To further enhance communication, parents will receive a link to your Principal’s Message Board where you will receive daily updates from your school. This Message Board will be updated in real-time and is designed to be even more current than the website and Facebook. Critical information will continue to be directly emailed to parents by principals in a timely manner.  

We know and understand that this system of lesson delivery is new and different and there may be challenges as we navigate technology and other changes, however, we feel confident that our teachers will be able to support each family. Thank you for your faith in us as we move forward.

We rely on our Redeemer’s guiding hand as we work together to support our students. 

Sincerely, 

Dr. Scott Morrison, 

Superintendent

Christ The Redeemer Catholic Schools