Glitches, disorganization upend 1st day of OCSB virtual school

The principal of the Ottawa Catholic School Board virtual school for kids who opted out of in-person learning is asking parents for patience following a chaotic first day, featuring for many a lot of waiting around for instructions that never came until end of day. 

Principal of virtual program wants parents to 'stick with us'

Chandra Pasma's seven year olds spent the first day of virtual school with the OCSB waiting to log on. (Chandra Pasma)

The principal of the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) virtual school is asking parents for patience following a chaotic first day, including a lot of waiting around at home for instructions.

About 4,000 of the 6,500 elementary school students who opted out of in-person learning at the OCSB were supposed to begin online classes Tuesday between 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. depending on the class — but a note went out to parents at noon conceding technical difficulties would hamper most students from actually having a class.

The letter promised an email from their designated teacher about how to login on Wednesday. 

Principal Andrea Green, who oversees online learning at the Ottawa Catholic School Board, says some students had trouble connecting virtually with their teachers. 0:41

"If it got off to a rocky start today, I'm asking for parents' patience," said virtual school principal Andrea Green. "I'm asking for them to stick with us."

The OCSB only received parent decisions on whether to opt for virtual learning in late August. That's when the staffing for the virtual school began, with some teachers getting their class assignments as late as on Monday.  

"We are hiring brand new teachers in the last week, and some of these teachers just received an employee ID number," said Green, so just getting them their class lists and navigating the virtual platform "was a little bit of a hiccup."

Parent Chandra Pasma said her three kids went to bed the night before knowing neither their teacher's name, nor what time to log on in the morning to begin virtual school.

"My three remote learners are currently in the living room watching TV and playing video games," Pasma said at 1 p.m. on Tuesday.


She finally received the email with instructions by 4 p.m. for her twins in Grade 2, only to receive a second email from another Grade 2 teacher an hour later suggesting she was teaching the two seven year olds. 

"So we've gone from no invitations to class meetings to too many invitations to class meetings," she said late Tuesday. 

"It's frustrating because we spent the weekend getting ready and preparing the kids mentally because they haven't been in school for six months now."

We speak with parents and the principal of virtual program. 17:15

She wished the school had taken their time and delayed to get ready for the first day.

Parent Jennifer O'Brien-Tomka has a daughter who was supposed to start Grade 1 on Tuesday and a son in Grade 6 beginning Wednesday.

While O'Brien-Tomka did hear from a teacher for her youngest the evening before class was to start, like Pasma, she too had no information by start of the class day about how to log on. 

"They're keen to learn and keen to get going, so I think they're a little bit upset this morning," said O'Brien-Tomka, who said she tried to recreate for her daughter a real first day of school experience — getting up early and taking photos in a new outfit. 

Still, she says, she wasn't expecting much the first week. 

"I'm trying to take the approach of 'go with the flow,' which isn't always easy when you're also trying to juggle this with work," said O'Brien-Tomka, "They're learning patience through this whole exercise which will hopefully serve them well in their lives." 

Green said there were a few teachers who did manage to actually log children into a virtual class on Tuesday morning, and she said, this week will be about getting the technology glitches worked out for everyone else. 

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