This article has been edited to correct an error in the headline.
BROCKVILLE — Families attending Upper Canada District School Board schools have less than a week to decide if they will choose in-person or online-based learning for the 2022-23 school year.
On March 4 the UCDSB notified families of the March 14 at 10 a.m. deadline to choose how they will attend school next year.
UCDSB superintendent of schools Susan Rutters told The Leader the short deadline is due to the Ministry of Education.
“We just recently received details from the ministry about what is required for remote learning for the 2022-23 school year,” she said explaining that school boards are moving away from the hybrid model.
Under the hybrid model, students can attend in-person, or connect to an in-person class within their home school remotely.
The hybrid model is more expensive to operate and has implications for education union contracts, all of which expire in August 2022.
Rutters explained that the board is moving to dedicated online teachers for remote learning in kindergarten to Grade 8, and the board needs student numbers to plan for staffing.
“Staffing is a complex process for school boards,” she said. “We need to allocate staffing based on our projected students numbers, which is directly tied to our budget.”
Rutters added that due to collective agreements with education unions, the board has a deadline for staff placements. “Hence the short window for registration,” she said.
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The new learning model from the UCDSB will see kindergarten to Grade 8 students have a dedicated remote learning teacher, but the online class may include students from many school areas.
“It won’t necessarily be a teacher from the same school that the student would attend in person,” Rutters said.
Grade 9-12 students attending UCDSB remote learning in 2022-23 will have a much different experience than in the past two school years. The board has used the Ontario eLearning Consortium for courses for several years. Those courses are open to students provincewide, so it may not be a local teaching a specific course.
“If a student wants a certain course, but there aren’t enough other UCDSB students who have selected that course, then they are able to enroll in that course if it is being offered in a different school board,” she said.
In addition to the short registration window, there are many restrictions for switching between in-person and online-based learning for the next school year.
K-8 students have to remain in their chosen learning method until the end of the first term in February 2023. The same restriction is in place for Grade 9-12 students.
Students also do not have the option of changing in the five-and-a-half months between March 14 and the start of the 2022-23 school year in early September.
Rutters explained that the board cannot reserve in-person and online-based spaces for the same student. For secondary school students, course selection plays a part in this too as not all courses are available in every UCDSB school.
She said that at this time students have to stay with whatever model they choose by March 14.
“We understand that it may be difficult for families to project that far into the future, however we have to ensure we have the appropriate staff in place,” Rutters said. “It is in our students’ best interest to transition at the beginning of a new semester.”
Ron Ferguson, director of education for the UCDSB said the board may need to revert to remote learning in the event of another wave of COVID-19 but that will not affect those who already attend online learning in that school year.
Families who want remote learning in the fall have until March 14 to register via the UCDSB website.
— The Morrisburg Leader