Learning at Home

Submitted Photo
Shea Harasymiw, who is homeschooled in Hinton, copies words out of a dictionary she inherited from her late great-grandmother.

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

As parents consider a traditional in-school return or online learning, there are some locals touting the virtues of organized homeschooling

Parents were thrown into at-home and online school this past spring due to the pandemic.

While many struggled with the sudden change, it was nothing new for several local parents who were already formally homeschooling their children before COVID.

“I have a lot of compassion because they were thrown into it. I have all this time where I’m allowed to plan and prepare and I feel a lot more secure with that plan in place,” said Andrea Sommerfeld, one local homeschooling parent.

“That must have been really tough, but my number one piece of advice is to read your child. Nobody knows them better than you and that’s the main reason why I love homeschooling.”

Alberta parents have the option to choose how children receive their education, this includes school-controlled learning, parent-controlled learning, or a blended program.

This past spring, parents supported their children through their school-at-home arrangements and made sure their children did the school mandated lessons. 

This online schooling is still considered school-controlled and is much different from true ‘homeschooling.’

Homeschooling or parent-directed learning varies widely depending on the parent’s chosen education style or curriculum. Traditionally, the parent is in control of all decision-making and curriculum choices, and some parents involve their children in choosing their own curriculum. Homeschooling gives parents the freedom to choose what, who, when, where, and how anything is taught.

Sommerfeld is going on her third year of homeschool teaching in Hinton and now has two school-aged kids.

“I really wanted to be in charge of what my kids are learning, and 100 per cent I am. I get to pick every single thing, and it’s wonderful, I love it,” Sommerfeld said.

She recently ordered their curriculum online for the next school year and her kids sat down with her to pick what they wanted to learn about. She loves the flexibility of being able to choose things they are actually interested in but also to see how they learn and what works best.

“Sometimes your kids can get a little frustrated or whatever and you just read them and take a day,” she said.

Each day, they start school at 10 am and they work through that day’s work, with the focus on doing the work and understanding everything properly instead of focusing on the time.

Sometimes the work can take an hour, sometimes two, and the rest of the day is filled with activities.

They started with a five day work week and halfway through the year they found that four days was better.

The kids had more attention on Monday morning when they had three days off rather than two, and they could easily make up for the extra work in four days. 

“There are so many families in town now that are homeschooling that the one downside everybody is always worried about is socialization, but let me tell you, these kids make friends so easy, they’re very social. It’s just a really positive experience for us,” Sommerfeld said.

Sommerfeld ordered a curriculum through her registered school board for her first year, but then switched to a curriculum ordered through an online organization called Learning House. The school board sent a complete pack with subjects, but Learning House allowed her to choose specific subjects.

In Alberta, home education provides each child $850 per year to offset the cost of resources, such as the curriculum, musical instruments, or anything to better a child’s education, according to the Alberta Homeschooling Association. 

A child needs to be registered with a school authority partner by Sept. 30 to access the funding. That school authority doesn’t have to be the school board in their specific location but can be any school board that suits their learning style in Alberta.

A certified teacher facilitator is assigned to them through that school board partner to help select curriculums and make sure a child is learning properly. Curriculums can be chosen through the school but parents can also select a curriculum online. Everything has to be approved and the facilitators will help if anything is missing. 

“We have to write up a lesson plan with all the curriculum and all the outcomes, the facilitator has to approve that,” Sommerfeld explained.

Twice per year, the facilitator comes out to visit and meet the Sommerfeld kids.

They look through their books and schoolwork together and assist with any questions they may have. Throughout the year they have continuous contact as well. Sommerfeld didn’t have any prior teaching experience and hadn’t heard about homeschooling until she met her husband. He was homeschooled by his mother until graduation, Sommerfeld explained, and his whole side of the family was also homeschooled.

“It never occurred to me until my daughter was getting closer to school age and I thought what we really wanted was to have a faith based learning. We wanted to introduce and incorporate God into our schoolwork,” Sommerfeld explained.

Seeing how her children learn has made their connection deeper and teaching her daughter how to read was incredible, she said. At the end of the year, her daughter took her grammar, writing, and spelling books with the instructions and said she would figure it out by herself, giving her some time to focus on her sons’ lessons.

Sommerfeld’s biggest piece of advice when considering or starting homeschooling is to reach out to other homeschooling parents and ask for help.

“There’s so many people going through the same thing that can help,” she said.

Listening to other moms talk about their experience with online schooling in the spring sounded more complicated than it needed to be, she added. While the impacts of COVID-19 on Sommerfeld’s family were different than those who are in school, the social aspect of their lives was hit hard just like anyone else.

They finished school much sooner than expected, but they couldn’t go see their friends or play in the park.

Miranda Wulf, another local homeschooling parent, said COVID-19 also changed their daily routine. Her children followed a loose routine around certain benchmark activities throughout the week like piano lessons or gymnastics. When these activities shut down due to the pandemic, Wulf had to create her own benchmark activities at home. Wulf’s homeschool style is called “unschooling”, which she plans to continue for as long as her kids allow her.

“I prefer learner-directed home education. I see myself as the facilitator for my children’s curiosities and kind of infusing school into everything that we do,” Wulf explained.

Unschooling is learner-driven education and is the fastest growing methodology of children learning without power struggles, according to the Alberta Homeschooling Association.

Unschooling empowers children to learn about what sparks their curiosity, this is believed to increase their motivation. Grades one through nine can be taught without any textbooks, workbooks, or paper-based curriculum at all, states the Alberta Homeschooling Association. They learn through projects, sports, games, internet research, socializing, discussions, play, jobs, volunteering, Worldschooling, and self-directed pursuits.

Wulf noticed that part of the recent online at-home-learning struggle for some parents may stem from trying to recreate institutionalized school at home with the added pressure of the parent child dynamic.

“They’re trying to still make it that structure, but the beauty of home is that you can make it whatever you want it to be,” she said.

In Wulf’s perspective, humans learn by following their curiosity and observing what’s happening around them.

“They learn to walk by themselves, they learn to talk by themselves, by being immersed in people who are walking and talking. We don’t have to teach them. They watch and do it. Humans will continue to do that if they’re allowed,” she said.

Her oldest daughter is six and wants to learn to read, so Wulf provided different approaches to reading.

Coming from the Montessori method of learning in her early childhood, Wulf believes having things available for children to explore will encourage learning without having to force them to learn.

In short, the Montessori method is a specific child-centered method of education that involves child-led activities in classrooms.

Wulf added that for many kids, their passion for learning fades throughout school as they are forced to learn and do things they aren’t interested in.

“There’s a punishment reward scenario. Nobody learns that way,” she said. “That’s not learning, that’s just performing.”

Before Wulf had kids she decided she wanted them to receive their education through unschooling.

Wulf’s passion is to keep her children curious about learning, and if they end up asking her if they can go to a brick and mortar school, she will let them choose that.

“But I’m also here to say that their grades aren’t a reflection of their self worth,” she stated.

Wulf remembered she did well in school because she had a great memory but that others were gifted in other ways and weren’t rewarded the same way.

“I’m rewarded for my particular gift with grades, I’m supposed to find self worth in that. But I don’t want my children to, because I can see what a waste of time school was for me,” she said.

Even though she could rush through school work and get good grades, children with great musical or athletic skills were sometimes made to feel stupid. 

“It’s an interesting heavy emphasis on one ability. But we all have various abilities. The beauty of home education is that we all know our children the best and what sparks their curiosities and what their abilities are and [we can] kind of let those soar a little bit,” she said.

Throughout high school, Wulf questioned why she was learning certain things that she would never use, and that she wasn’t actually learning but just temporarily memorizing them.

Instead, she wants to encourage her children to learn about things they are passionate about and that will actually stick with them.

Once her oldest daughter was four years old, she began collecting Montessori materials for her to access and included her in certain tasks around the home, like cooking or gardening.

Wulf will be working with a facilitator who interprets what they are doing into learning outcomes.

The school board she chose  advocates for unschooling, and their facilitators will help them meet the education requirements in Alberta. If one facilitator isn’t the right fit for their family, they are able to request a new one that understands their learning techniques.

“There are a lot of resources out there and a lot of homeschool conferences online right now,” Wulf added.

One of her homeschooling friends has a fourteen year-old son who worked with his facilitator to map out his education specifically for the university program he plans to take. Some homeschooling parents move to online programs in higher grades with certain subjects that tend to get more technical.

Students in home education can apply for credits to earn an Alberta Government high school diploma. Wulf suggested that curious parents reach out to different families or groups to learn about the different options.

“You were their teacher from [age] zero to five, you’re not ill equipped to be their teacher from five onwards.You know your child best and you have a unique opportunity to really dial in and do what sparks their joy and their curiosity,” she said.

She added that it’s also not a lifetime commitment and that parents can try it out one year only to return them to school the following year. Kids that re enter the school system after homeschooling will be placed in the grade based on their age, and no knowledge testing is done to place them.

The first step to start homeschooling is notifying their current school authority that they won’t be returning the following year. Then they must be registered with any school board in the province before Sept. 30 to receive funding. Reach out to local homeschooling groups, the Alberta Homeschooling Association, or your local school authority for more information.

Cardinal River Campground opens to the public

Photo Submitted by Aaron Jones
More than 100 Alexis members attended the grand opening of the new Cardinal River Campground.

Masha Scheele

Teepees, tents, and trailers were scattered across the meadow where the new group campground was built on the Nakota Sioux Nation’s Cardinal River reserve for its grand opening last weekend.

More than 100 Alexis members attended the grand opening of the new Cardinal River Campground.

Alexis members came up with the idea to build a campground on their land to deter random camping and instead designate a place for camping. 

West Fraser manages quite a large campground program and decided to help build a new one along the Cardinal River.

The group area includes a shelter, washrooms, a medicine wheel, and fire pit among seven trailer stalls with picnic tables.

This upcoming weekend, they will open the public campground, which is built separately from the group site meant for Alexis members.

“We started in 2018 and we got most of the work done in 2019 and now we’re doing the finishing touches. We are going to open the campground this weekend,” said Aaron Jones, management forester at West Fraser.

The public campground includes 21 sites, which Alexis members hope will limit the impacts of ongoing random camping that was occurring on their land.

The Cardinal River reserve of the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation is almost 5,000 hectares in size and was awarded to them, along with another smaller reserve in that area, in 1995. Prior to that, there was a provincial campground within that area of the reserve.

After becoming reserve land, the provincial government deactivated that campground by removing the fire pits, picnic tables, and washrooms. 

The road system remained but nature took over in the past 25 years to reclaim the campground.

Since then, campers have continued coming to the area for random camping and without realizing they were on reserve land.

Members of the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation approached West Fraser in the spring of 2018 with a concern about random camping that was taking place on their reserve.

“It’s kind of like if you had an acreage and somebody was camping on your land, it wouldn’t make you very happy,” said Jones.

When asking random campers to leave, it would occasionally spark confrontation.

Aaron Jones photo

West Fraser also needed to figure out who was going to maintain and operate the campground during the summer months.

Since the community of the Alexis members is so far away from the campground, no Alexis member was willing to live in a trailer for four months out of the year to operate the site.

Another option was bringing someone down from Fox Creek Development Association, an indigenous owned and operated organization from Hinton, that manages all campsites for West Fraser. 

West Fraser reached out to an Alexis member who lives in the Mountain Cree nation, which is located only half an hour from the campground. This Alexis woman was interested in managing the campground and is currently training before taking on the job.

She will become an employee of Fox Creek Development and maintain and operate the site.

“It’s right on the Cardinal River, so it’s a beautiful spot. You can use your ATVs on the campground,” Jones added.

In many provincial campgrounds, ATVs aren’t allowed to be driven within the campground but with some rules posted, they are allowed at the Cardinal River campground.

Alexis members aren’t charged to stay in the group campground as it’s located on their own land, but the public campground collects revenue to help maintain and operate the area. There’s a $23 fee to stay in the public campsite, which includes free firewood.

A lot of work has gone into the roughly $400,000 project, which was a gift from West Fraser to the Alexis Nation.

“It’s just part of our relationship building that we undergo with all the different nations we deal with. We have other things we do with all the nations and they all have different priorities and interests,” Jones said.

West Fraser also donated lumber for a project that includes provincial government funding to build houses and train around 24 Alexis members.

Aaron Jones photo

Wild Sheep Foundation happy with youth day turnout

Masha Scheele Photos
Cole Belcher works on his bear spray technique during the youth day hosted at the Hinton Gun Range Aug. 8 by the Wild Sheep Foundation Alberta

Masha Scheele

Wild Sheep Foundation Alberta hosted its first youth day at the Hinton Fish and Game gun range this past weekend.

The day included skeet shooting, the rifle range, archery, bear awareness, a pack horse demonstration, and a sheep conservation seminar. Normally, the Wild Sheep Foundation Alberta selects four kids via an essay competition to send down to camps in the United States each summer.

Due to the pandemic, the organization decided to create their own youth day.

“The youth camp is a big part of our conservation side of things with the Wild Sheep Foundation,” said Paul Chambers, director with Wild Sheep Foundation Alberta.

“From the response we had and all the positives I think there is definitely room for us to grow and improve it,” Chambers said.

“We can open it up to even more kids and get them involved and teach them about conservation and let them have some fun.”

Kids from all over Alberta attended the event, some even as far as Lethbridgee.

The 60 slots for kids to register filled up quickly and they even created a waiting list.

The importance of the day was to expose kids to hunting, as well as conservation. 

“We tried to make it fun but educational and I think we mostly succeeded,” Chambers said.

Vista proposal has 2022 start date

Bighorn Mining photo

Masha Scheele

Coalspur Mines Ltd., also known as Bighorn Mining, proposed phase II of the existing Vista Mine just outside of Hinton, followed by a proposal for an underground expansion to the existing Phase I project.

Phase II of the Vista Coal Mine would operate the mine as one complex with potential to increase the average annual production by about 4.2 million tonnes of coal for a decade. 

Phase II would be a westward continuation of the existing open-pit surface coal mine to recover the coal from the same Val d’Or, McLeod, and McPherson seams, using the same methods and infrastructure.

The mined coal would then be transported by rail to west-coast ports, and shipped by ocean vessels to foreign markets.

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) reviews applications to ensure energy development is safe, environmentally responsible, and meets all requirements.

According to AER’s website, Vista Coal Mine was previously approved in 2014 but remained dormant due to weak thermal prices.

In 2019, Coalspur’s Vista mine started production and produced 1.4 megatonnes (Mt) of coal.

Production of marketable thermal bituminous coal in Alberta increased in 2019, rising by 85 per cent to 3.7 Mt, with Coalspur’s Vista mine starting raw production in February.

As part of the AER’s application process, Coalspur is required to submit an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report to the AER for its Phase II project. 

An AER representative told The Voice that they had not received Coalspur’s EIA report and applications for Phase II. 

EIAs describe a proposed project, including the nature and scale of specific activities involved, the location, and the environmental impacts of the project. 

“We use EIA reports to identify uncertainty or risk and to help determine if the project is in the public interest,” stated AER.

When an EIA report is deemed complete, the company can seek approval of their applications.

All coal development projects must to be considered through the existing AER review processes under the applicable legislation, including the Responsible Energy Development Act, Water Act, Public Lands Act, Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, Mines and Minerals Act, Coal Conservation Act, and the regional and sub-regional provincial plans. 

The second expansion of the Vista mine includes the Vista Underground Mine (VUM), which would be located within the Vista Mine Phase I mine permit area and is additional to the Phase II mine expansion.

The coal seam that VUM would mine, located approximately ten kilometres east of Hinton, extracts coal that cannot be recovered economically by surface mining. 

Like the Phase II expansion, VUM would utilize existing Phase I infrastructure such as coal processing facilities and refuse dumps.

The mine yard and underground entries will be developed within a developed Phase I surface mine pit, limiting new surface disturbance to most 2.85 hectares. The area of underground mining will be approximately 121.8 ha and operate for three years. 

Other expansion activities include construction of the Centre Dump overburden disposal area as per approved mine plans but at an accelerated rate, relocation of the explosive storage areas and associated soil and surface water management activities. 

If a mine expansion results in an increase in the area of mining operations of 50 per cent or more, the mine would also be required to undergo a federal environmental assessment. As well as with a total coal production capacity of 5,000 tonnes per day or more after the expansion.

On Dec. 20, 2019, the federal government determined Phase II did not warrant designation of a federal environmental assessment under the Impact Assessment Act (IAA), and allowed the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) to decide if the Vista coal mine expansion should be approved.

Adverse effects within federal jurisdiction were expected to be appropriately managed by comprehensive legislative mechanisms, the provincial environmental assessment, and regulatory processes.

The federal government has since gone back on that decision and is now requiring an assessment of both the phase II expansion, and the underground expansion of Phase I.

The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada determined that the Underground Mine and Expansion Activities Project does not, on its own, warrant designation of a federal assessment under IAA.

Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Jonathan Wilkinson, stated that the area of mining operations for the projects combined would be just below the 50 per cent threshold, and at 18,683 tonnes produced per day, well above the total coal production capacity threshold of 5,000 tonnes per day.

Bighorn Mining adjusted the total project area and average production capacity per year in June 2019 compared to March 2019.

This adjustment decreased the size of the project and meant it would not automatically require a federal assessment.

The final refinements of the Phase II proposal states the projected construction start is January 2022, and operations would start in April 2022. 

The mine would operate for ten years and produce 4.2 million metric tonnes of thermal coal annually.

The projects await approval both from the provincial and the federal government. 

AER did not respond to further questions before The Voice deadline regarding timelines for reviewing the proposal. 

Press secretary of the federal office of the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change also did not respond before deadline regarding questions on the timeline of the federal review.

Rotary cancels 2020 Oktoberfest, sights set on 2021

File photo from past Oktoberfest

Masha Scheele

Another local event that so many residents look forward to each year has been officially cancelled due to pandemic-related restrictions.

Hinton Rotary Oktoberfest organizers looked for alternatives, but they ultimately felt there was too much uncertainty to go ahead with any event planning.

“We weren’t sure when things were going to open up again and even if they did open up, we weren’t sure if there would be enough confidence in the community,” said Tim McClelland, Rotary services director. 

Oktoberfest, which is Hinton Rotary’s primary fundraiser, raised $21,000 last year.

The annual Oktoberfest was scheduled for the last weekend in September and normally sells out between 450 to 500 people. Even if the Rotary hosted the event, numbers need to be fairly high to make any profit from the event.

One alternate option discussed by the organizers was putting together packages for people to host an Oktoberfest party at their homes. 

“We would deliver beer and food and some decorations and maybe music so they could host an Oktoberfest party,” McClelland said.

Normally, tables at the event are sold prior to Oktoberfest and each table seats 10 people. After connecting with many of the event’s regulars and sponsors, they realized the number of groups that could commit was low.

“A lot of positive feedback but not a lot of commitment,” McClelland added. 

They realized it would be a lot of effort and  financial investment without the assurance of any response.

Instead, the Rotary will be hosting a fundraising event to auction off the old wooden Town of Hinton street signs.

The Town of Hinton is replacing a lot of their signs and committed to giving those signs to the Rotary for the purpose of auctioning them off to raise funds. 

The majority of that money would be going back into the community, although Rotary does have some international projects.

The fundraiser will likely raise less than half of the usual Oktoberfest funds, and with limited fundraising expected during the holiday season, Rotary will be bringing in less funds this year.

The details have not been completely worked out but the sign auction event is expected to go ahead in November.

Over 300 wooden name signs will be auctioned off through an online auction sale. More details will be announced in October.

Trail projects keeping Alberta Parks staff busy this summer

Scott Sunderwald Photo
Hiking trails around Wildhorse Lake and Kinky Lake are being restored thanks to Provincial Park staff and the Junior Forest Rangers. Wolves can be heard occasionally from these trails.

Masha Scheele

Staff from Alberta Parks’ Northern Rockies District have been busy this summer with restoring park areas and clearing trails.

Trails in Sundance Provincial Park, Rock Lake Provincial Park, Kinky Lake, and Wildhorse Lake got some upgrades amidst a busy summer with many Canadians flocking to the mountains for their vacation.

Many people think Alberta’s Northern Rockies District consists of Switzer Park, said Scott Sunderwald, visitor experience coordinator of the Northern Rockies District. However, the district has 27 parks and protected areas and is almost the size of Prince Edward Island.

“We manage everything from the Willmore Wilderness, which itself is 4,600 square kilometres, down to Whitehorse Wildland and Brazeau Canyon and Rock Lake and Pierre Grey’s and the list goes on and on,” Sunderwald said.

With such a massive district and a limited team to keep the district functioning, they rely on partnerships to focus on trail projects. 

The Alberta Parks crew operates campgrounds, the visitor centre, and works on enforcement on the land, so often trails don’t end up being a high priority.

“The good news is this year we have been able to focus on some very specific trail projects and worked in partnership with different groups to make them a reality,” Sunderwald said.

Many locals are familiar with the hoodoos in Sundance Provincial Park and the Wild Sculpture Trail, but are unaware of the whole backcountry experience in that park.

The giant but narrow park stretches all the way down to Highway 16 with back country lakes and four backcountry campsites in the management plan. 

Over the years, the trail has grown over, but Alberta Parks teamed up with Alberta WildFire to clear trails. 

“If they’re not busy fighting fires, they will take on projects to help the community, especially with chainsawing and that sort of work,” Sunderwald explained.

The firefighting crews helped cut about five kilometres of trail and Alberta Parks is in the process of putting up signs. 

“We reclaimed two of the four backcountry sites. And we’re going to be putting some bear poles in there,” Sunderwald added.

Bear poles are placed in the backcountry to store food in an area off the ground and out of reach of bears. 

Sunderwald added that without bear poles available, hikers have to make their own and since bears can climb, it has to be a clever set up.

“We’re going to help the public out by building a couple of those as well,” he said.

Scott Sunderwald Photo
Alberta Wildfire crews and Alberta Parks cleared trails in Sundance Provincial Park. Pictured are part of the hoodoos along a trail leading to some hidden pristine lakes.

Another project Alberta Parks has been working on this summer are the trails around Wildhorse Lake and Kinky Lake. 

Many locals know these as fishing lakes, since Alberta Parks stock them annually with Rainbow trout at Wildhorse and Brook trout at Kinky Lake.

Trails around both lakes have grown over and Alberta Parks worked with the Junior Forest Rangers to clear them.

“That’s another partnership, they’re teenagers, young adults, and they helped work with our park staff to clear the trail around Kinky Lake,” Sunderwald said.

People can now camp, fish, and hike around both lakes. Crews are still working to put up more signage at Kinky Lake and finding a way around a swampy area on the south side of the lake.

“You can go 90 per cent around the lake and then you have to wade through water or wait for us to finish that trail,” Sunderwald said.

In the classic upper foothills ecosystem at both Kinky and Wildhorse lake, visitors can find white spruce, poplar trees, willows, buffalo berries, and of course fishing in the lakes, Sunderwald shared. 

“The views of the mountains are really quite nice there as well. And actually, lately we’ve been hearing a lot of wolves howling up there,” he added.

The final major project was clearing equestrian trails at Rock Lake Provincial Park, with help from the Junior Forest Rangers.

Sunderwald explained that Rock Lake is a local favourite and breathtakingly beautiful with 100 campsites, equestrian staging areas, and a lake tucked against the mountains near Willmore Wilderness.

Rock Lake Provincial Park is located north of Switzer Park along Highway 40 north.

Visitors can ride their horses through the park all the way to the Willmore staging area.

“We also reclaimed a trail known as the George Kelley trail. Actually, he’s related to Mike Kelley from Kelley’s Bathtub. It’s a lovely trail that heads up to a lookout on the top of some cliffs where you can get this great view of the mountains and the lake. We’re pretty excited about that trail as well,” Sunderwald said.

Normally, people from all over the world come to Rock Lake for the quintessential Canadian Rockies views and rugged backcountry experience.

Alberta Parks clears all sorts of trails and there is always more work to be done, Sunderwald said.

“We’re happy amidst this very busy covid summer that we were still able to do some of these exciting projects,” he said.

Other trails include those in Switzer Park that receive annual maintenance due to high traffic.

Without any additional funding, Alberta Parks leans on volunteerism, partnerships, and their own Parks staff.

School boards outline re-entry options for local students

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

In preparation for kids going back to school in September, the Evergreen Catholic Separate School Division (ECSSD) and the Grande Yellowhead Public School Division (GYPSD) have presented some options for families.

Both divisions can accommodate for families who wish to continue their children’s education at home while still remaining enrolled in their designated schools.

The distance education option at ECSSD is the online and print delivery education by a certified teacher to students who are at home. 

Unlike the emergency remote learning implemented in the spring, all outcomes from each course will be taught in distance education just as they are with in-school classes, according to ECSSD’s re-entry plan.

“At-home learning will not be the same as what was experienced from March 16-June 30, 2020. It will be more robust, regimented and accountable to demonstration of achievement according to the full Alberta Programs of Studies,” states the division’s re-entry plan.

In distance education, the division hopes to provide teacher instruction in all core subjects for Grades K to 9, while students in high school can take a variety of e-learning courses.

All kids in distance learning must have access to an electronic device in order to access online classes and programs. This learning approach must involve parent involvement and assistance.

All teachers will follow Alberta curriculum and course outcomes.

If families choose to continue working from home in September, the division will have pre-identified re-entry times throughout the year where families can choose to return to in-school classes.

Families will be asked to make the re-entry decision and communicate to school administration three weeks prior to each entry point, for programming and staffing purposes.

The dates of potential transition back to in-person learning are Aug. 31, Nov. 16, Feb. 1, or April 21.

Parents must register for either in-person or at-home education for each of their children to participate in, starting in September. 

This process will repeat approximately three weeks before the end of each quarter with the option to re-evaluate their prior commitment. Parents were emailed a link to register each of their children on Aug. 13.

The principals of both Evergreen Catholic schools in Hinton will provide direction to parents that draws from information available on the school division website.

The three learning options for high school students through GYPSD are traditional in-class learning, hybrid virtual learning, and virtual education.

Hybrid virtual learning includes a blend of in-class and online courses provided by the local high school in collaboration with the Alberta Distance Learning Consortium (ADLC), while virtual education entails ADLC courses supported virtually by ADLC and local Learning Connection (TLC) teachers.

Elementary and middle school students have two options including traditional in-class learning or virtual education.

GYPSD staff stated they have always supported learning-at-home requests and facilitated online learning for Grades 1 to 12 in partnership with the ADLC. A TLC site is available for students and parents to access online learning.

GYPSD’s senior leadership team reached out to the ADLC to inquire about increasing the number of spots available for GYPSD families wishing to learn from home.

All families were asked to indicate if they wanted their child to learn from home within a certain deadline in order to secure the resources at ADLC, which are not unlimited. 

The survey for parents is posted on the GYPSD website and will remain open until Aug. 14, after that families can follow up directly with their principal.

Families who choose to continue virtual at-home education will be facilitated through the TLC.

TLC sites are partnered with the local high school and are under the leadership of that principal. 

Students who receive at-home education through GYPSD will have support from an ADLC teacher as well as a teacher from their own school.

Principals will work with families who wish to return to in-class learning or switch to virtual learning throughout the school year.

Re-entry back into in-class learning at the school can occur at any time during the school year with one week notice to principals.

School principals will be posting their individual Re-Entry Plans on their websites after Aug. 24 and sharing those plans with families prior to the start of the school year. 

HMA debuts redesigned motocross track

Masha Scheele Photo
Ryker Meyer hit the Hinton Motorcycle Association (HMA) track Aug. 8 The HMA is located on Hwy. 40 south.

Masha Scheele

The Hinton Motorcycle Association (HMA) spent the past weeks rebuilding, cleaning up, and redesigning the main motocross track.

The longer and faster track opened on Aug. 8, ready to host races after being brought up to motocross race standards with all the proper safety features.

The outdoor dirt track is located along Hwy. 40 south. Lap times on this improved track will be closer to two minutes, which is an increase from what it used to be at just above one minute, said Cody Newman, HMA’s facilities director.

“It’s a faster track now, so we sped it up. It’s actually a longer track but it’s also faster so that the flow of the track is really good,” Newman said.

All new jumps have been added and a different layout. The last race held on the HMA motocross track was roughly 12 years ago, said Newman. The kids track was also completely redesigned recently.

“There have always been lots of kids, usually families will come out there,” Newman said.

Most years, HMA hosted family nights on Wednesdays but it never kicked off this year due to the pandemic. At one point they had 40 to 50 people during a family night.

Last year, HMA also didn’t host many family nights due to the unusually high amount of water throughout the summer months.

The track suffered due to all the rain last year, but HMA has been working on better drainage, which seems to be working well. Besides drainage, the track just needed some updating, upkeep and groundwork.

HMA received a lot of help through donations from companies and individuals to get the track to its current state.

Memberships have also been selling fast this year, which helped out the association with the upgrades as well. Memberships help the association maintain, cut, and clean up trails through the bush.

More people seem to be purchasing a motorbike this year, Newman noted, and those people are now looking to use them while they have the time. The COVID-19 pandemic is keeping more people closer to home, who are looking to recreate locally.

Although the track generally doesn’t have too many bikers out at a time, HMA is trying to limit the track to 15 people at one time.

Individuals who are buying memberships are made aware of the precautions surrounding the pandemic, but HMA hasn’t had any issues. Newman believes the size of the lease where the track is located would technically allow 50 people at one time currently.

The area currently offers something for three different skill sets through their kids track, off road track and motocross track. The nonprofit society is run completely through volunteers and has been around for more than 30 years.

For interested riders, a season pass allows full access to the track with some expected rules. Day passes are also available, but must be accompanied by a season pass member.

To volunteer or check for track updates, go to Hinton Motorcycle Association on Facebook or buy a membership on their website: hintonmotorcycleassociation.ca

Matthew Worobey trying out the new and improved track on Aug. 8.