Re­sult­ing re­stric­tions mean new ways for de­liv­ery of Fire Academy course

Prairie Post (West Edition) - - Alberta - BY CRAIG AL­BRECHT PALLISER SCHOOLS

The COVID-19 pan­demic has forced schools to find in­ven­tive ways of de­liv­er­ing ed­u­ca­tion, and Palliser Re­gional Schools’ off-cam­pus pro­gram­ming is no ex­cep­tion.

Palliser is of­fer­ing a grow­ing num­ber of off-cam­pus cour­ses in an ef­fort to pro­vide en­gag­ing, hands-on learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties not avail­able to stu­dents in a tra­di­tional class­room set­ting. When the prov­ince can­celled in-class lessons to limit the risk of in­fec­tion, the Kate An­drews High School Fire Academy was among those pro­grams im­pacted.

While the plan was for Coal­dale and District Emer­gency Ser­vices per­son­nel to teach the cur­ricu­lum at the fire hall, ren­o­va­tions at the fa­cil­ity meant the first-year pro­gram had to be held at KAHS. Re­stric­tions aris­ing from the pan­demic ruled out that venue, and with so­cial dis­tanc­ing and other re­quire­ments the re­al­life lessons had to go vir­tual.

“We were so close to the end of the pro­gram, we’ve kind of had to adapt and find an al­ter­na­tive means to fin­ish the pro­gram,” said Coal­dale Fire Chief Kevin McK­e­own.

On this oc­ca­sion, that meant him run­ning each stu­dent through prac­ti­cal, med­i­cal sce­nar­ios us­ing an on­line meet­ing plat­form. The fi­nal exam for the med­i­cal first-re­spon­der com­po­nent of the fire academy pro­gram will also be done on­line.

“I think it was re­ally im­por­tant for the stu­dents to fin­ish it be­cause they were so heav­ily in­vested in it,” said Ja­son Ku­pery, Palliser’s Direc­tor in charge of off-cam­pus pro­gram­ming. “The ma­te­rial was en­gag­ing, ex­cit­ing, they were learn­ing some­thing re­ally new, and they were learn­ing some­thing they were in­ter­ested in. To not fin­ish that would have been a real dis­ser­vice to stu­dents.”

For­tu­nately, be­cause the Fire Academy is a year­long pro­gram the ma­jor­ity of the ma­te­rial had been cov­ered and there was no ques­tion of tak­ing short­cuts for stu­dents to com­plete it. It was im­por­tant to en­sure the in­tegrity of the course, he said, not only be­cause this is the first year it’s be­ing of­fered, but com­ple­tion re­sults in a med­i­cal first re­spon­der cer­tifi­cate which is a pre­req­ui­site for many re­lated oc­cu­pa­tions.

“I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I would want a med­i­cal first re­spon­der who hasn’t com­pleted their course look­ing af­ter me, as op­posed to one who did,” said Ku­pery, not­ing there isn’t a bet­ter time than now to be adding an­other 11 in­di­vid­u­als ca­pa­ble of sav­ing lives.

Fire Academy stu­dents al­ready had to put in ex­tra hours to get in the nec­es­sary train­ing be­fore the pan­demic sur­faced. The Coal­dale fire chief was im­pressed by the com­mit­ment they showed once that work­load had to be in­creased.

“I am pretty proud of this class as far as mo­ti­va­tion and at­ten­dance has gone,” said McK­e­own. “Now hav­ing to switch to mostly on­line, they have to put the time in out­side school and use some per­sonal time to make sure they’re get­ting through the mod­ules and mak­ing sure they’re get­ting on­line at cer­tain times to get their course work done.”

Palliser’s other off-cam­pus pro­grams have also con­tin­ued, with the ex­cep­tion of the iron­work­ers train­ing which was can­celled be­fore it started. The school di­vi­sion’s off-cam­pus co-or­di­na­tor checked to en­sure work­ing con­di­tions were safe for those stu­dents en­rolled in the Reg­is­tered Ap­pren­tice­ship Pro­gram, work ex­pe­ri­ence, or Green Cer­tifi­cate train­ing for agri­cul­tural op­por­tu­ni­ties.

In­struc­tion in dual credit cour­ses – which al­low stu­dents to earn high school and post-sec­ondary cred­its at the same time – has also con­tin­ued. Just as Ku­pery praised McK­e­own for his com­mit­ment to the Fire Academy, he thanked part­ner in­sti­tu­tions in­clud­ing Bow Val­ley Col­lege, Leth­bridge Col­lege and SAIT for do­ing what’s best for stu­dents dur­ing these un­cer­tain times.

“They have been ex­cel­lent at adapt­ing their ma­te­ri­als and be­ing pli­able in terms of fig­ur­ing out how we can get stu­dents to fin­ish,” he said.

Stu­dents in all of the off-cam­pus pro­grams wanted to en­sure their in­vest­ments weren’t go­ing to waste ei­ther, said Ku­pery, in­clud­ing those en­rolled in the unit clerk pro­gram at Leth­bridge Col­lege since Septem­ber.

“They don’t want to walk away from it. They ap­pre­ci­ate the course and what it can do for them in the fu­ture and what it is do­ing for them now as far as broad­en­ing their hori­zons,” he said.

The re­al­i­ties of the COVID-19 pan­demic have raised many ques­tions as to what the next school year will look like in the fall. While Ku­pery said that’s no dif­fer­ent for off-cam­pus pro­grams, he’s con­fi­dent the de­mand for such learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties is only grow­ing.

Palliser Schools photo

Palliser Schools photo

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