'Highly disruptive' flip-flopping with virtual and in-person learning to end: WCDSB

·3 min read

Cyndi Stewart believes the Catholic school board’s fall registration plan will bring some much-needed consistency for students.

After a 2020-21 school year that saw not only shutdowns in all schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but students able to opt in and out of in-person classes to move online at various dates, Stewart thinks the constant movement wasn’t conducive to a good learning environment for students and staff.

With that in mind, until March 19, the Waterloo Catholic District School Board (WCDSB) will conduct a survey for any parent that wants to choose virtual learning the next school year.

The difference, however, is moving online next year will be a one-time choice and there will be no transition periods during the year. In fact, registration for the virtual St. Isidore school, means the student will no longer be affiliated with the current home school, but will have the option to re-register for in-person learning in 2022-23.

Stewart’s daughters, Cassandra and Gabriella, in Grade 6 and 8 respectively, at St. Teresa of Calcutta Catholic Elementary School did in-person learning for the entirety of this school year. Her son graduated from high school in 2020. Stewart believes having parents choose now “makes sense.”

“There is planning to be done, teachers that need to be placed and or hired for the St. Isidore school. The flip-flop that happened this year, I think, caused start date issues and class numbers going up and down,” she said.

Loretta Notten, director of education for WCDSB, echoed Stewart’s sentiments, saying multiple transition points for students proved to be “highly disruptive” for families and staff. As well, the extra funding provided by the government this school year won’t be available for 2021-22.

“We have to plan prudently for the year ahead,” Notten said.

“We feel the picture for the fall is coming into clearer focus and people should be able to reasonably predict their comfort level in having their children back to in-person learning.

“We do believe in the main (focus) that in-person learning is best, but we know that not all of our families are fully there yet with their comfort level.”

The public school board told the Times it is “working out the plans for learning modalities for next year and expects to have decisions made in the coming weeks.”

The survey comes at a time when the Ontario Hospital Association declared Ontario is in its third wave of the pandemic, pointing to the sharp rise in variants of concern coupling with the increasing trend of patients in intensive care. Not all medical officers of health are ready to back that declaration, however.

As well, total COVID cases among teens in the region has surpassed the 1,000 mark and total cases among kids under nine is more than 450. In March, there have been in excess of 75 total COVID cases among staff and students between the Catholic and public schools, and there are three current outbreaks at schools in the region – all at public schools.

Notten said while the survey ends March 19, parents will have until June to make a final commitment.

“That does give people the assurance of knowing there still is one more window to finalize that decision,” she said.

Bill Doucet, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cambridge Times