By Fran Yanor | Legislative Reporter

Remote learning has its advantages but it isn’t for everyone, and some local students are relieved to return to class.

“I’m glad to be back,” said Valemount Secondary School student Sasha Michaud. “I actually get work done. I’m way more productive there than I am at home.”

There are a multitude of reasons why a child will or will not be onsite, said Prince George School District Superintendent Anita Richardson. “It’s a decision that’s made at the family level.”

Even with great lesson planning and responsive teachers, Heather Michaud said her daughters missed physically being in school. “It was the interaction with the teacher, with the classmates,” Michaud said. “That’s the part they were missing the most.”

About 40 per cent of SD57 students returned for in-class instruction the first week, compared to nearly 30 per cent province-wide. In Robson Valley, 43 per cent of elementary students returned to school in Valemount on week two, almost twice as many as attended in McBride. While about 26 per cent of McBride high schoolers returned (Valemount numbers were unavailable).

For Heather, the remote learning has some benefits, particularly the personal responsibility it requires. “Sitting down and turning Netflix off, and saying, ‘Okay, what do we need to do today?’” said Michaud, whose two jobs dropped to one during the pandemic. “Especially on the days when I work, I come home and say, ‘Okay, so what have you got done today?’”

Some days, it wasn’t much, according to her daughters.

For 12 year-old Delaney, who attends Valemount Elementary School, there were days that sped by. “When I’d just get distracted and then a lot of time would go by and the day was almost over,” said Delaney, “and I was like,

‘Oh my god, I haven’t done anything.’”

Her older sister concurred. “It takes a lot of discipline,” said Sasha, who works best with a routine, deadlines and timelines to follow. “Most days I would never even do anything or just kind of sit there. But then some days I would have to get stuff done because I was starting to fall behind.”

Not all courses are easily learned online – take Biology 11. “The teacher was great and her classroom was so much easier to learn in,” said Sasha. “Doing it at home and being independent about it was definitely harder.”

For Delaney, the social aspects are key: “I find it hard to focus when I’m not around my friends.” While learning remotely has its freedoms, it’s not her preference. “I find it really difficult,” the 12 year-old said. “I need to be in a classroom where I can just talk to my teacher.”

It often helps to have a teacher explain things, Delaney added. “Because when I read it, it doesn’t always make sense, and sometimes, I just need someone to tell me that again.”

Students may be forgiven for struggling with challenges many adults haven’t fully mastered.

“We know that learning from home doesn’t suit every learner, so for some students it’s better to be back onsite,” said Richardson. “For others, they’re doing really well learning from home.”

Fourteen year-old brother Aron Michaud feels comfortable with remote learning. “He’s feeling like he doesn’t need to be (in school) because he’s gotten everything complete,” said his mother Heather.

A few of Sasha’s friends also love online schooling, she said.

“They can wake up when they want, it’s so easy and they just do whatever,” said Sasha. “And some of them get it done on Monday and then they have a whole week off and have no school to do.”

At school, Sasha’s former class of 20 was down to four students. She’ll go twice a week for the remainder of the month. “So I can get everything done,” she said.

Both Sasha and her sister hope school returns to normal in September.

Otherwise, said Sasha, it’ll be very stressful. “I’ll be in grade 12 and I’ll have a bunch of core or academic classes to take,” she said, “and it’ll be really hard to do those on my own.”

If the hybrid model of remote learning and in-class instruction endures as the Minister of Education has said it may, Delaney said she’ll have to become more efficient. “Maybe make myself a schedule that works for me and try and get myself to do it,” she said. “Maybe just do a better job of trying.”

Meanwhile, both Michaud sisters seem grateful for any class time.

“Only two of my friends were there,” said Delaney, “but it made a big difference.”

Fran Yanor / Local Journalism Initiative / [email protected]