Catholic school board moves to hybrid learning model

Simcoe Muskoka Catholic Board says current virtual school model is not sustainable

The Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board will begin a new hybrid model of learning for elementary and secondary students in all of its schools, citing lessons learned two months in due to COVID-19.

This model will blend face-to-face learners with virtual learners in the same class, under the direction of the homeschool classroom teacher.

The hybrid model at the high school level will begin on November 12, and on November 23 for elementary students.

“Offering two different models of education, in-class and on-line, was new for everyone. Now that we are almost two months into our reality, we have learned what works well and what needs to be adjusted. The bottom line is that our current virtual school model is not sustainable,” explains Interim Director of Education Catherine McCullough.

” We have received more requests to switch from in-class to virtual or vice-versa than we anticipated and we simply cannot accommodate these changes within our current model. We have an obligation to meet the needs of our families who want to make changes to their mode of learning, but we must do so in a way that is feasible and sustainable in the long-term. This model will make it easier for students to return to in-class learning.”

To date, the Board has received close to 700 requests for students to switch from in-class to virtual or vice versa for the November 23 transition point, and this number continues to rise daily. The Board says it is unable to adequately staff the virtual school, which currently has more than 3,3000 students.

“Our families and staff have been through a lot in the past six months and we continue to ask for compassion and patience as we work through the many challenges COVID-19 has thrown at us. To be honest, it has been difficult and frustrating at times and yet every day I witness our school communities rallying together to overcome obstacles. One of the things that I am optimistic about with this model is that it will reconnect our virtual learners with their schools and friends.” said Joe Zerdin, Board Chair. “The fact is that we are going to be in this global pandemic for quite a bit longer and I really believe that the introduction of this hybrid model is what we must do in order to provide sustainability and stability to carry us forward to the end of June and beyond, if necessary.” 

All schools will have to restructure classes to accommodate the transition in modes of learning. The Board says the introduction of the hybrid model will limit disruptions and ensure that classes don’t have to be restructured again in January and April, which are the two other previously established transition dates.