Ottawa

No remote learning for OCDSB's International Baccalaureate students

High school students who have been working toward an International Baccalaureate diploma in Ottawa's English public board have been told they must attend classes in person in order to stay in the program.

Students must either attend classes in-person or drop out of prestigious high school stream

Students enrolled in the International Baccalaureate program at Ottawa's Colonel By Secondary School must attend classes in-person this fall in order to remain in the program. (Facebook)

High school students who have been working toward an International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma in Ottawa's English public board have been told they must attend classes in person in order to stay in the program.

The IB program is currently offered in Grade 11 and Grade 12 at Colonel By Secondary School and is geared to students who may be planning on attending a university abroad.

Students in the traditional secondary stream of the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) have the option this fall of either attending school in person, or registering for remote learning if they're concerned about the risk of exposure to COVID-19.

However, IB students at Colonel By have been told they must attend classes in person if they wish to remain in the program.

Hoda Khalil's daughter is entering Grade 12 of the IB program and commutes on public transit 90 minutes each way to attend Colonel By in Beacon Hill.

"We have an underlying health condition in the family," said Khalil. "It's very risky for her to be in school in person. It's not a choice."

Despite the risk, Khalil has decided for now that her daughter can attend classes in person, since she's already invested hard work studying in the advanced program.

"She has different chances for universities outside of Canada. It's a different system, and we had a different plan," said Khalil.

Parents ready to help stream classes

Sherien Youssef, who has two children in the IB program at Colonel By, shares Khalil's sentiment of feeling pushed into a no-win situation.

Although Youssef has a family member who is immunocompromised, she is sending her kids to school for in-person learning.

"It's been a long journey," said Youssef. "It's a lot of work to have put in to say 'Never mind, let me just toss the diploma aside' and choose to do on-line learning. It feels very unfair."

A mother of two secondary students in the International Baccalaureate program with Ottawa's English public board reacts to the news that her kids must attend classes in person to stay in the program. 8:05

During the OCDSB meeting on Aug. 25, Youssef made a presentation on behalf of concerned parents suggesting ways the board could offer remote learning options for IB students.

One of the suggested options was streaming IB classes on a restricted feed.

"We understand that it's challenging for everyone," said Khalil. "So we are willing to help with uploading videos and doing whatever it takes to resolve the situation."

However the board has rejected that option, saying that the strict certification requirements of the IB program, as well as limited resources, prevent boards in Ontario from offering the IB program through a virtual high school. 

But Youssef believes the board is complicating matters by trying to implement a board-wide solution for something that only affects a couple of classes at one high school.

"There are potential solutions that could be implemented at a school level, and I think some flexibility should be given to the school to allow that," she said.

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