One of the big challenges with schooling this year is delivering the curriculum while maintaining safe social distancing. In the event of a student or teacher catching a cold that would prevent them from attending or if the pandemic forced another closure of schools, without adequate lines of communication there would be no means to teach.
High school students of the Beaufort Delta Divisional Education Council (BDDEC) need not worry, however, after several hundred thousand dollars worth of donations have brought in laptops enabling Grade 7-12 students to complete their schoolwork from anywhere with an Internet connection.
“We were able to outfit all the students,” said BDDEC superintendent Frank Galway. “We’re preparing ourselves for a real possibility that remote learning may be something we have to enter into again this year — we’re not sure, so we certainly need to be prepared.
“On the other hand, at the same time students will be able to use them at school and if they need to take them home that will be a decision the teacher will have to make.”
Helping the education authority out with the outfitting was both the Gwich’in Tribal Council, who donated $103,200 and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, which donated $130,000 and BDDEC covered the rest. In total, the trio purchased 684 laptops to support students, as well as upgraded the laptops available for teachers.
A system is being put in place to track laptops taken home for homework. Galway said the initial push was to get Grade 10 students online and used to the system and expand to the other grades shortly afterwards.
“Grade 10 is our largest cohort of students,” he said. “Our intent is to get as many devices this year as possible, that way we’re prepared in case of something like last year happening.
“We’re looking at what constitutes a remote-learning environment and how well we’re able to connect to it.”
Up next will be getting electronic connections available to Grade 4-6 students. Assistant Superintendent Devin Roberts said that plan should be underway in the coming weeks.
Galway said the school was working out a system for students to check out the equipment when needed. He thanked both of BDDEC’s allies in getting the project.
“We’re always very appreciative of the work and energy that GTC and IRC lend to us,” he said. “They are always there to help us and we appreciate that very much.
“It was an effort on all our part to get to this point where we’re able to provide students with a device.”