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Lethbridge schools prepare for another transition back to learning at home

On Thursday afternoon, Alberta announced new COVID-19 restrictions using a “targeted” approach for “hot spot” regions, which includes a transition back to online learning for some students effective Monday.

Hot spot regions were determined to be “municipalities or communities where there are at least 350 cases per 100,000 people and 250 active cases,” which includes the city of Lethbridge.

As part of the new measures, Grade seven to 12 students will be returning to online learning until at least May 17, at which time the situation will be re-evaluated.

Kindergarten to Grade 6 will remain in schools, unless otherwise approved for online learning by the province.

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Ken Sampson, superintendent with the Holy Spirit Catholic School Division, said the district had already been pushing to move its junior and senior high schools online, following a spike in cases after Easter.

“A number of weeks back, we had made an application to move our city schools in Grade 7 to 12 to online learning for a couple of weeks,” he explained. “Unfortunately, at that time, it was denied.”

Sampson said he is understanding of the mixed feelings parents, staff and students must be having, but he ultimately approves of the decision.

“We know that that’s the best thing to.”

Learning was previously moved online for these grades in November 2020, which remained so until mid-January.

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“I love being at school with all my friends, and actually being able to see all my teachers,” said Grade 12 LCI student Asher Bridge. “Learning at home is hard and I don’t really want to do it.”

While some students aren’t looking forward to the change, others hope the format remains consistent for the last two months of school.

“It’s been pretty stressful having to go from online back to in-person,” said Joshua Nielsen, also in Grade 12. “I kind of hope we just stay online, and then don’t have to do final exams.”

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The Lethbridge School Division, which has a total student population of around 11,000, is planning on using Monday to prepare, with a full transition coming into effect by Tuesday.

As of Friday morning, the division reported 36 active cases of COVID-19.

“All of our staff certainly are very stretched,” Supt. Cheryl Gilmore said.

“When you transition from one form of delivery — one platform for delivery — in school to a different form, certainly it takes readjustment — it takes time.”

Gilmore adds the division was told rapid testing set out for grades seven to 12 has been postponed for the time being.

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