School board north of Toronto abandons virtual school in favor of a hybrid model

TORONTO – A school board north of Toronto is abandoning its virtual elementary school program in favor of a hybrid model that will combine classroom and distance learning, saying it was making the decision to support growing numbers of learners in line.

Previously, remote elementary students in the York Catholic District School Board received separate instruction online.

In a letter sent to parents on Wednesday, the board said in-person students and their remote learning peers will now take lessons together. The change takes effect next week.

“Given the various operational and staffing challenges encountered in the current remote learning model and the need to find a sustainable solution for the remainder of the school year, a decision has been made in the best interest of all elementary school students,” wrote Mary Battista, the council’s acting director of education.

Battista did not provide details on those challenges, but said in a separate statement that the change would help accommodate the number of students moving from in-person to virtual learning.

“Since the beginning of the school year, we have received many requests from families asking to move their child from the classroom to distance learning,” she said.

Distant students will now receive virtual instruction from their home schools, allowing them to learn alongside their friends, she said.

The new model will also allow for a more seamless transition from in-class to remote learning throughout the school year, Battista said.

“If parents wish to transition their child from face-to-face to remote learning, they can now do so at any time,” she said in the statement.

“Additionally, if students or classes are required to self-isolate, or if schools are closed due to COVID-19 cases, the transition to full remote learning will be seamless.”

All of the board’s elementary schools will be closed Tuesday next week and the new hybrid model will launch the next day, Battista said.

In-person classes will continue as usual, she said, while remote learners will join each day via Google Classroom.

“It won’t mean more students in the classroom, because any additional students will be remote learners and not participate in person,” Battista said. “Most face-to-face students will stay in the same class with the same teacher.”

She said the same hybrid model has been successful with the board’s secondary schools since the start of the school year.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on October 8, 2020.

Perry A. Thomasson