WELLINGTON COUNTY – Distance learning has presented unique challenges for students who live in rural parts of the county. Online learning isn’t always possible or practical for some students.
“One of the difficulties, especially in the North is students with unreliable internet or no internet at all,” said Jennifer Meeker, principal at Wellington Heights Secondary School in Mount Forest. “With social distancing and self-isolation, it’s been difficult for students to access or go somewhere to access internet.”
The Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB) is collaborating with bus companies to deliver printed learning materials to students who request them. UGDSB communications officer Heather Loney said by email that over 100 high school students and 100 elementary students at UGDSB are part of this program.
Meeker explained that the school work is printed by a school employee and put into packages for each family. On Wednesday, the bus company picks up the work and delivers it to the homes. Students leave last week’s work for the bus driver to bring back to the school for grading.
Rod Cook, owner of Cook School Bus Lines in Mount Forest, said he feels privileged to be a part of this.
“We’re happy to be able to help out kids that don’t quite have the resources at home or the technology,” Cook said.
Cook said he thinks one of the problems isn’t necessarily no internet at all but there could be too many people trying to access it, including parents working from home.
“I’m sure there are some families where there are five or six people that are part of that group trying to use internet,” Cook said. “I can understand how trying that must be to get your homework done.”
Francis Noventa, principal at Norwell District Secondary School in Palmerston, said there are around 30 students from his school getting the printed school work. For some students, they are doing a mix of online courses and hard copy work.
“In addition to kids not having internet access, for some of them it’s just their preferred method for certain courses,” Noventa said. “It’s really just about making sure kids have what they need to stay connected to their learning and the school.”
Noventa said students are facing a challenging situation. Some are working jobs, on family farms, caring for their younger siblings on top of their school work. However, he said he’s received plenty of positive feedback from them.
“They appreciate getting the work, it gives them something to do,” Noventa said.
Tammy Storey, driver trainer at Cook School Bus Lines, said parents are thrilled with the program too.
“I think it makes it a lot more convenient for those that don’t have internet access or the ability to go in once a week to pick that homework up,” Storey said. “I think that they’re pretty overwhelmed as it is with teaching from home and getting used to that.”
School bus drivers are also happy to help the students they have gotten to know driving from them to school every morning.
“They’re missing their kids,” Storey said. “It’s kind of a way to be able to help those kids out.”
With more businesses opening back up and parents going back to work, Storey expects more will use this service.
“For the ones that were going in and picking up homework, they may not be able to do that anymore,” Storey said. “We are expecting there will be an increase in those that need that service.”