TORONTO — Ontario's largest school board is gearing up for thousands of elementary students to switch between online and in-class learning in a matter of weeks.
Parents had until Wednesday to tell the board if they wanted their kids to move between the two methods of learning, with changes to take effect Oct. 13. The next opportunity to make a change will be in November.
The board said 7,500 elementary students will switch from in-class to online learning, while 3,000 students who had been learning from home will move to the classroom.
As it stands, the board said, 58,500 of its 174,000 elementary students are learning from home.
The development comes as Toronto deals with a surge in cases of COVID-19.
On Friday, the city recorded an additional 311 cases of the virus and two more deaths. It was also reporting four schools with active outbreaks.
Toronto's top public health official, Dr. Eileen de Villa, said she respects parents' decisions to pull their kids out of the classroom.
"I think they should make the choices that make the most sense for their own unique circumstances — what makes sense for their children and what makes sense for their broader family," she said, noting that some kids or their families may be at greater risk of serious COVID-19 symptoms.
"That doesn't take away from the fact that, from a public health perspective, we completely appreciate the value of schools to our children and to their overall health, so we're doing everything we can in concert with our school board partners ... to create environments that are as safe as possible for our children."
While the deadline for parents of elementary students to pull their kids out of class at the earliest chance has now passed, high schoolers have until Oct. 15 to decide whether they'll make the switch. That decision would take effect on Nov. 23.
The board has given elementary students three opportunities to switch between in-class and online learning, with deadlines of Sept. 30, Nov. 6 and Jan. 29.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 2, 2020.
Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press