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Parents, teachers concerned as 2 school boards to adopt hybrid classroom model

File photo of an empty classroom with social distancing.

Parents and teachers are voicing their concerns as two school boards have announced they will adopt a hybrid classroom model, combining in-person and virtual students, a few weeks into the school year.

The York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) announced this week the decision was made due to “various operational and staffing challenges faced in the current remote learning model.” It will come into effect on Oct. 14.

YCDSB says they have been using the model with their secondary students since the beginning of the year and it has been successful.

The board has said no permanent staff will lose their job over the change.

Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board will also be switching to an “extended classroom learning model” for elementary students on Nov. 2.

The board tells CityNews a system re-organization was scheduled to take place in November and with the high number of parents requesting to be switched to online learning as the pandemic evolves, they say the realigning of class structure is in the best interest of their students.

A total of 400 students are still on a waitlist to switch from in-class to virtual learning.

Teachers are already exhausted and this is even furthering their frustration says Liz Stuart, president of the Ontario English Catholic Teacher’s Association.

Stuart said a hybrid classroom model is going to be detrimental for both the teachers and students and they have given teachers very little time to prepare and make the model work.

“It would be extremely difficult for teachers to try and do that and meet the needs of the students in the way that they know they need to,” added Stuart.

For parents, it’s creating another period of uncertainty just as students were getting used to the new normal.

Melanie De Rosa has 8-year-old twins who are both on the autism spectrum and was already concerned due to the delay in the start of the school year.

“I can’t see how this is going benefit either group if anything it’s going to impact both groups in a negative way.”

“The school board is asking [the teachers] to do the impossible. There is no way a teacher will be able to teach two different groups in two different formats,” said De Rosa.

Parents have started a petition that’s received over 2,100 signatures calling on the province to reverse this decision, expressing concerns about how this hybrid model will create a divide in the classroom and how teachers will cope.

The petition also featured a screenshot taken from the YCDSB frequently asked question page on their COVID-19 back-to-school plan.

The screenshot featured a question about a hybrid classroom and why they wouldn’t be adopting it for elementary students. YCDSB’s answer was, “In the elementary panel, it would be very difficult for the classroom teacher to provide ongoing virtual synchronous instruction simply because that teacher could potentially be teaching a very large classroom of students who require a high degree of teacher monitoring and direction.”

It is no longer on the website.

A YCDSB spokesperson said the answer was based on information the board had at the time. Since seeing the success of the hybrid model in their secondary schools, they have a better understanding of the demands of remote learning and will apply it to the elementary hybrid model.