With school closures settled, Montreal parents want curriculum instructions

Now that it's clear Montreal schools will be closed until September, parents and teachers are trying to come up with a plan for the interim.

For one thing, they’d like the education ministry to set out clear standards for the minimum amount of online learning—knowing that for many people, only the minimum is possible, for both parents and teachers.

“ I absolutely hear from parents who haven’t heard from their teachers, even if the child has special needs,” says Caroline Phaneuf, the chair of the English Montreal School Board’s parents’ committee.

“Some are doing online teaching already,” she says. “It’s just such a big disparity, and that's what we want to have stopped.”

The ministry should make clear, she says, how it will try to standardize the situation, for a few reasons.

“What’s going to happen? We’re going to have an entire range of children who were all supposed to all follow the same curriculum for the year, that will be at completely different levels in that curriculum,” says Phaneuf.

“When schools reopen, it's going to be hard to manage, and hard for people to catch up.”

The EMSB parents’ committee has asked the education ministry to set very clear guidelines on the minimum amount of learning per grade level.

Teachers say they’re also going through a steep learning curve trying to give lessons online—and for those who are also parents, they also need to monitor their own children’s schooling.

“Just learning how to project our image in a split screen to use our white-board. It’s not only learning the technical platforms but having the time to redo the lesson plans to incorporate them into these technical platforms…teachers are finding it quite time-comsuming,” said Catherine Hogan, a parent of two and a teacher at Westwood Senior in Hudson.

Some parents aren’t totally happy with the plans to delay until September. Toby Forester is the father of seven-year-old Libby, an only child who hasn’t seen another kid in two months.

“Every day it’s ‘When is school starting?’” he says. “Now we’ve moved onto ‘When is day camp starting?'”

Forester says he thinks kids are adaptable and would be able to adopt social distancing measures, but he doesn’t always feel those views are welcome.

“Frankly, there’s a little bit of stigma for the people who are pro-school,” he says. ”You mention it online, and I do often, and you get shot down by a lot of parents saying ‘how can you do that to your kid?’”

One child psychologist says families will have an easier time getting through the next few months if they try to keep up a routine, to help replace the structure school normally provides.

“Try to remember—that’s what I do with myself as well—I really try to focus on the fact that my children are resilient, my children are smart, and if I’m coping well, they’re going to cope well,” says Dr. Tina Montreuil.

 

“Just try to do [your] best, knowing it’s not going to be the same…but I think that’s really all we have.”

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