Coronavirus: Lethbridge families prepare to bridge education gap as Alberta cancels classes

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney was on hand Sunday as the provincial government announced that due to an increase in COVID-19 cases, all kindergarten to Grade 12 classes would be immediately cancelled.

“I recognize that this is extremely disruptive for many families and for those working in these sectors,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health.

The class cancellations had family routines looking quite different Monday morning.

“Summer holidays, apparently, are coming a little earlier than expected,” laughed Cassandra Rice.

The mother of four said she’s fortunate that she runs her own day home and can be at home with her children.

“I’m glad they will be safe at home with me.”

But Rice also worries about the academic gap that her children will have to overcome if class cancellations persist for long.

Two of her daughters have struggled with severe speech delay, and she worries that the break could put them even further behind.

“They are leaning at a grade 1, 2 level, instead of their current grade 4, grade 6 levels that they’re in,” she said, “so we are already struggling academically.”

Rice is one of many parents who will now be left looking for ways to keep her children’s education going while at home.

But an early childhood education expert from Lethbridge College urged parents not to get too caught up in trying to take over teaching school curriculum.

“Do things that you would normally do, but include your child into activities like that,” said Hanako Shimamura, an instructor in the Early Childhood Education Program. “This provides an opportunity for your child to be a responsible member of the family and also provides a routine.”

Shimamura added that including children in basic household activities can also provide a chance to stress the importance of hygiene.

“Cooking together, baking together and so forth … and cleaning can be really emphasized and incorporated during times like these.”

But Shimamura said one basic educational activity should still be the focus for parents.

“Read together,” she said. “The increased screen time is anticipated already, so just make sure that you avoid any sort of excessive use of technology before bedtime to protect your children’s sleep ability.”

She added that physical fitness is also key during the class cancellations, especially with many recreational activities also halted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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