Preliminary results indicate 80 per cent of Catholic students in Simcoe Muskoka will return to class

Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board is considering a staggered start to school year

Not a full house of kids, but preliminary results from a survey indicate 80 per cent of students with the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board will be returning to class in September.

Catherine McCullough, the board’s interim education director, said 12,500 families completed the survey representing 20,147 students. Of those, 16,000 students have registered for face-to-face learning, while about 20 per cent or more than 4,000 have opted for virtual learning.

McCullough feels it is premature to say students will be grouped together from different schools as part of online learning. She said they need to pull out the schools these kids are from and take a deeper dive into the data.

The school board, according to McCullough, has a much better idea of how it’s going to approach online learning in terms of instructional minutes.

“The guidelines we received are pretty prescriptive. So many minutes for primary and secondary. This gives us some direction we previously didn’t have.”

There are several immediate challenges to tackle.

“The first is to conduct all of our training with our principals and vice-principals with regards to safety measures, entry into school and all the other proactive measures we have put in place.”

McCullough said the next piece is validating all the survey numbers and then reallocating or allocating staff in the appropriate way to address program needs. She said it’s ‘all-hands-on-deck’ because it will take some time.

“The clock is ticking. We are trying to do it as efficiently and as quickly as possible.”

The board is also exploring a staggered start to the school year for elementary and secondary. This would allow students to be brought in several grades at a time.

McCullough said you have to remember students haven’t been in the buildings since March.

“There are a lot of things that are going to be changed in terms of entry and exit, signage, and just general practices to try to be proactive, preventative and safe. Kids will need an overview and a little bit of a rehearsal on it.”

While the process is daunting, McCullough is confident the board has a good plan in place.

“It’s a big effort. Educators are deeply committed. We just want our kids back in school.”

The Simcoe County District School Board will release its survey results on Thursday.