The number of students opting for online learning in the London region’s biggest English school board continues to rise.
During a special meeting Tuesday night, officials with the Thames Valley District School Board said an additional 1,185 students requested a switch from in-person learning to full remote learning since the board last met two weeks ago.
The move, which so far has involved 968 elementary school students and 217 secondary school students, has resulted in lots of last minute shuffling of staff in order to accommodate new learners less than a week before classes start.
“While we recognize that some of these changes in learning models were required by families. This did delay our ability to finalize staffing,” said Riley Culhane, the board’s associate director of learning support services.
Of the approximately 81,000 TVDSB students, 13,173 will be learning remotely, while the remaining 68,351 will return to classrooms.
Culhane said the constant addition of online learners has resulted in countless hours of work for administration and support staff to reschedule entire schools.
“We are at 16 per cent in terms of learners who are participating in full remote learning, and counting, because we do have additional students who are asking to participate in that program on an ongoing basis,” Culhane said, adding that staff have reorganized online class lists at least five times.
Since the last board meeting, the federal government announced $763.34 million in funding for Ontario schools, which included $8.5 million for the TVDSB.
A portion of that money allowed the board to hire additional staff and administrators specifically for remote learning as demand increased.
TVDSB students in remote learning have been clustered by grades into seven different online schools, each equipped with a principal, a vice-principal and a group of teachers, but likely more support will be needed.
“When you have over 2000 learners in a kindergarten program with 65 educators and one principal, that is a significant amount of work and so we are looking to see what additional support we may be able to provide to our full remote learning program,” Culhane said.
Meanwhile, the additional funding will allow the board some extra flexibility in accommodating students wishing to switch from in-person to remote learning or vice-versa when they get the chance in November and February, said Mark Fisher, the director of education.
“In the last board meeting I shared I had some concerns whether there would be spaces or not. Those concerns have been alleviated, so I think we’re in a much better position now to facilitie those transitions prior than to that funding announcement.”
— to www.cbc.ca