English language learners in the Archway Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program have completed their school year amid COVID-19 through remote learning and online classes.
LINC classes follow the Abbotsford School District calendar and, during their spring break, students and teachers nervously watched the COVID situation unfold.
During LINC’s 28 years in operation, classes had always been held in person with childcare provided for some students with young children.
Archway Community Services staff and teachers weren’t sure how an online format would work for their students, who range in age from 17 to over 80. The students an face barriers of low English language skills, access to technology and low levels of digital literacy.
In spite of all the barriers, 70 per cent of the students joined remote and virtual classrooms.
“My students’ commitment to learning and building a vibrant and supportive online community far exceeded my expectations,” said Sara Marazzi, a LINC teacher.
Together they learned “pandemic language” with terms like “social distancing” and shared information about benefits and social assistance available if needed. LINC students also learn about Canadian history, citizenship and employment opportunities.
Paula Mannington, the English language services manager at Archway, said students supported each other over issues such as job losses and parenting, while teachers found digital devices and arranged the delivery of educational materials for those without access to technology.
Childcare workers stayed connected with parents and offered extra support. As well, 13, preschoolers were given packages with materials to help their transition to kindergarten this fall.
“This experience has really highlighted the importance of community-based education for the learners and families we serve,” Mannington said.
LINC offers nine levels in the Canadian Language Benchmarks standards from literacy to CLB 8. In the past year, close to 500 students participated in 20 classes.
LINC staff hope they can get back to some adapted format of in-person classes in September but will take the lessons they learned in the last few months going forward.
“In-person works well, especially for those who have special needs or require childcare, but enhancing digital skills for virtual options will continue to be critical for our entire student population in the coming year,” Mannington said.
For more information about services for newcomers, visit Archway.ca/newcomers.