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Delayed start for online classes as demand grows in some Ontario school boards

Last Updated Sep 14, 2020 at 4:35 pm EDT

A student using a tablet computer.

Some Ontario school boards are delaying the start of virtual learning due to a growing demand for online education in the run-up to back-to-school.

Three Toronto-area boards say they’ve seen a surge in parents opting to keep their kids out of the classroom during the COVID-19 pandemic in the eleventh hour, further complicating the already difficult task of co-ordinating classes.

The Peel District School Board, for instance, says it had to push back live online classes because 10,000 students signed up for virtual learning in the past week.

It says such classes will now start on Sept. 21 for elementary students and Sept. 22 for high schoolers — a week’s delay — so the board can wrangle more staff to account for the 64,000 students who are now learning from home.

The Halton District School Board advised parents Friday that online learning will begin on Wednesday rather than Monday because of “recent and increased demand” for the remote option.

That board says it working through a “significant” waitlist for virtual school and advised people who are currently attending in-person classes to continue doing so, as some virtual classes are full.

Meanwhile, the Toronto District School Board  delayed start of virtual school for a second time, moving the date from Thursday to Sept. 22 due to a surge in students opting for online learning.

“Between Tuesday of last week and today (Sept. 14), we have gone from approximately 66,000 students to more than 72,000 students in the Virtual School resulting in the addition of more than 200 virtual classrooms — all requiring a teacher,” they said on their website.

As a result, the TDSB says it needs more time to finish the staffing and timetabling process.

The spread of COVID-19 has increased in recent weeks, with the province reporting more than 200 new cases of the virus in each of the last three days. Toronto and Peel Region have been particularly hard hit, often reporting dozens of new cases each day.