N.B. high school students will go to school every second day to reduce numbers
HALIFAX -- Most New Brunswick high school students will only go to school every other day as the province is offering what it's calling a "mixed-learning model" to reduce the number of students in classrooms, the province announced Thursday afternoon.
"Mixed learning means that most students will go to school every other day," New Brunswick Deputy Education Minister George Daley said.
He added that days that students are not in schools are not vacation days and students at home will have to maintain contact with their teachers and fellow students.
Attendance will also be recorded every day.
"The goal is that they will be connecting with those students daily," Daley said of teachers.
The province is using a different method for high school students because of logistical challenges of creating a "bubble" for them.
"We could not bubble the high school students the way we did in the K-8 system," Daley said.
High school students take different courses to prepare for various post-secondary programs or career goals, so it's difficult to bubble them when they all have different schedules.
The province also said that it is implementing a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy under which every student is expected to have their own laptop or tablet.
"We realize this is a significant shift for our system, but it will help ensure a seamless transition in case of an outbreak," Daley said. "Don't be anxious if your child doesn't have a computer for the first day of school. There will be a loan program until they do get a device."
Daley said the province has about 11,000 devices available to lend until people can get their own.
There is also a laptop subsidy program and information on it is available on the department's website.
Daley said a lot of people have called to inquire about getting a subsidy and he says the department has hired more people to meet the demand. He said people can expect a call back within 48 hours.
The province is subsidizing laptops if families are under an income threshold.
Chromebooks and cellphones are not recommended for the long-term, but students are welcome to use those insomuch as they can.
As for internet access, the department is working to provide spaces for people who don't have high-speed internet at home.
To meet the increased demand of online learning and smaller class sizes, the province says that it has hired 154 new teachers at a cost of $11.5 million for the upcoming school year.
While they say there will be gaps, New Brunswick Teachers Association says, overall, they support the plan.
"Government putting more technology into the hands of students who need it is always going to be a good thing and we've applauded that move," said NBTA president Rick Cumin. "Now it's up to the professionals in the system to action that."
New Brunswick is the first province to be trying out the blended learning model. The "bring your own device" program will be used after the pandemic is declared over.