Private Schools a 'pretty safe option'

Telegraph-Journal | July 13, 2020
Savannah Awde | Legislature Bureau
 
While pandemic preparation has kept private schools busy, COVID-19 has also gifted the sector with unexpected selling points.
 
Paul McLellan, head of Rothesay Netherwood School, said he's learned a lot from the first wave of the pandemic, delivering academic material over 16-hour time differences to kids from Vancouver to Japan.
 
"It was getting the balance right. It's hard to judge workload when you're not actually in person, hearing regularly from the kids. So I think it's a balance of, how much do we structure our day, how much is synchronous or face-to-face, how do you manage assessments, how do you deal with things like mental health?" he said.
 
They plan to welcome all students, in Canada and abroad, back for face-to-face learning in
September.
 
"I'm in a pretty great position when I'm talking to international families about where they're coming to live," McLellan said.
 
"Rothesay might be the safest place in the world. Two years ago in Maclean's there was a big article, in 2018, about Rothesay and Quispamsis being the safest place in Canada. And layer on the success of COVID in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island specifically," he said.
 
"Some of our families are coming from places like Mexico City, where there's a full-blown crisis. So it is a pretty safe option."
 
Willie Brownlee, principal at the Moncton Christian Academy, told Brunswick News that they're getting more applicants than they will be able to admit. He gets the sense that some families are looking to switch to the private system rather than return to public school.
 
"Public schools have a mandate that is just about impossible to fulfil," he said. "You can't go and do an online program with every family in this province because not every family is resourced the same way. It's super difficult; we are severely under-resourced.
 
"I think a lot of families are afraid that the fall is going to look like the last few weeks of school, and they're not really happy with that."
 
On June 12, Education Minister Dominic Cardy acknowledged the three months of class time students lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, and noted that having teachers focus on “core curricular outcomes” like numeracy and literacy would get students back “up to speed.”
 
He also announced details around the fall-term rollout, including a staggered arrival and departure times, physically distanced classroom layouts, and a mix of in-class and at-home learning.
 
"I would hope that if they had the space, they would spread students out and be there all the time, because I think that's going to be optimal for them," Brownlee said, adding he doesn't envy Cardy's position at the helm of an uncertain school year.
 
"We're writing history with what we're doing right now ... but it could change the face of ... it has changed the face of businesses that are gone and that are present, who had to change the model they're working with. And it's the same thing with education."
 
Rothesay Netherwood and Moncton Christian Academy are planning to maintain face-to- face learning for the upcoming school year.
 
McLellan said his discussions with Public Health have left him confident that it's unlikely they will have to revert to distance or hybrid learning.
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