Local Catholic school board sets up waitlist for in-person to online elementary learning switch; no change possible with public board

Public board surveyed families back in December

Short on time? Here’s what you need to know:
-The Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board has established a wait list for elementary students wishing to switch from one learning model to another, at-home or in-school
-The Simcoe County District School Board is not permitting a change as it already surveyed families in December
-Both the local public and Catholic school boards have made masks mandatory for students from junior kindergarten to grade 12

The Ministry of Education announced that students will be permitted to return to the physical classroom throughout Simcoe-Muskoka as of Monday, February 8. But what about those families who don’t want to go back?

Those with the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board (SMCDSB) have some options, while those with the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) were already given their say.

Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board

The Catholic Board has established a waitlist for elementary school students who wish to switch between online and in-person learning or vice versa. However, it is a “one student in, one student out” philosophy, meaning those parents who wish to have their child switch to online learning instead of in-person must first wait for another family to switch to the face-to-face model. Since the SMCDSB has already introduced a hybrid model of learning for secondary school students, the transition is much more seamless. In both cases, elementary or secondary, families are asked to liaise directly with the school to start the transition.

“This hybrid model was implemented at the secondary level, but at the elementary level the proposal was met with opposition and after significant consultation with our staff and families we opted to keep our virtual elementary school intact,” said SMCDSB spokesperson Pauline Stevenson via email to Barrie 360. “At that time, we also accommodated all families who wanted to make the transition from one mode to the other and implemented a wait-list system to change the mode of learning – one in and one out where there was space. We also communicated that in order to maintain stability in our system that on a go-forward basis we would not be able to accommodate requests for changes to the mode of learning, beyond the wait-list system that we put in place.”

RELATED: PROVINCE TO STAGGER SCHOOL REOPENING, WITH SIMCOE AND MUSKOKA AMONG THOSE REOPENING FEBRUARY 8

The Catholic board is working on an automated enhanced screening method and hope to communicate details with families prior to the start of in-person schooling on February 8.

Simcoe County District School Board

Those parents who now wish to make the change from one learning model to the other are too late; the opportunity presented itself two months ago. “We had a survey that went out to parents back in December and that was the opportunity for them to make a switch from in-person learning to remote-learning or from remote-learning to in-person learning,” said SCDSB Superintendent of Education Dawn Stephens. “That switch will happen next week, and that process has already occurred.”

Stephens says there is very limited opportunity for a switch outside of that. “We’ve had the opportunity to do it once now. We’ve changed. We’ve increased classes where needed, but we won’t be we won’t be doing that again,” she added. “If parents are not wanting to return in person, they can continue to follow along with their classroom teacher asynchronously in their classroom teacher’s Google Classroom, if that’s the choice that they want to make.” Stephens says parents should speak directly with the school principal with these concerns.

The SCDSB is requesting that all parents or guardians make use of an online screening tool before the start of the school day. The COVID-19 student screening tool is available here.

Mandatory masks

While Wednesday’s announcement from the education ministry stipulated that masks would be mandatory for all grades with the option to mask kindergarten students, both the SMCDSB and the SCDSB have opted to follow the local health unit’s advice and make masking of junior and senior kindergarten students mandatory.