Back-to-school virtual learning numbers higher in Ontario’s COVID-19 hotspots – .

Back-to-school virtual learning numbers higher in Ontario’s COVID-19 hotspots – .

TORONTO – The number of students choosing to learn remotely in September is significantly higher in some of the COVID-19 hotspots in Ontario, as the fourth wave of the pandemic worries some parents about the risk of infection in the schools.

The Toronto District School Board – the largest board in the province – reports that about 14 percent of its students have chosen not to take the in-person learning.

The Peel District School Board – in one of the regions hardest hit by COVID-19 – says 18% of elementary school students and 20% of high school students will stay at home.

Elsewhere in the province, school boards report very different numbers.

The Limestone District School Board, based in Kingston, Ont., Said only two percent of students will learn remotely when resuming classes, while the Halton District School Board and the District School Board of Ottawa-Carleton both say about six percent of their students have chosen the virtual learning option.

But an Ottawa-Carleton parent whose children are heading for in-person learning said she is questioning her decision due to the fourth wave of the pandemic, which is being fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant.

“We had to make the decision between the virtual school and the school in person in March,” said Kimberly Callard. “That was before Delta existed in Canada. It was even before the start of the third wave. “

She said she was given the opportunity to change her mind in May, but the wording of the school board made her think the option was only for families whose personal circumstances had changed.

“Our family situation has technically still not changed,” she said. “It’s the community and the COVID situation that has changed. “

Callard, who has two new entrants in fifth grade and one in seventh grade, said she would prefer to keep her two youngest children – who are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine – at home.

“It’s a tough decision, because I think they miss having friends at school,” she said. “I think they miss the in-person interactions. But also, I want to keep them safe. “

Callard said she has contacted several people on the board, but has yet to receive a response.

She said she would also be happy if the Ottawa-Carleton board of directors added additional security measures, beyond what the province mandated.

It’s a step the TDSB said it would take at a special Planning and Priorities Committee meeting this week.

For example, the TDSB presentation reads: “Elementary students will continue to take breaks within cohorts with physical distance. The ministry said elementary students did not need to stay in their cohorts during recess.

The Education Department accepted music and singing indoors “with masking encouraged where distance cannot be maintained,” but the TDSB said it would only allow singing at the interior with masks and physical distance.

The ministry also allowed gatherings inside, but the TDSB said it would not do them. Instead, schools can have virtual or outdoor assemblies.

The TDSB’s planning presentation – along with data from the Peel District School Board – also offers some guidance on who will be returning to school in person.

In both of these boards, students at what the TDSB calls “key transition points” – Kindergarten and Grade 9 – are more likely to choose face-to-face learning.

Only nine percent of Toronto students in these classes chose the online learning option, as did the parents of 13 percent of kindergarten students in Peel and 12 percent of grade 9 students.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on August 18, 2021.

-with files from Allison Jones.


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