10,000 students switch from in-person to online learning at Peel public schools in past week

Peel District School Board says more than 10,000 students have switched from in person to online learning in the past week.

Peel District School Board says recent increase means delay in real time online learning

Tiffany Thornton picks up her son, Clark, 9, from his first day in Grade 4 at Whiteoaks Public School in Mississauga on Friday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Peel District School Board says more than 10,000 students have switched from in-person to online learning in the past week.

In a letter to families on Saturday, the board says more than 64,000 students are now enrolled in its online school. The board says the increase of more than 10,000 students means it has to make changes to its online school in terms of staffing and timetables.

The increase will delay the start of online learning in real time, with students receiving online projects this week, according to their grade, and the expectation that they will be done independently, the board says.

"Due to this recent increase in online enrolment, we require additional time to staff online classes and reconfigure timetables to ensure an equitable and successful start for all staff and students online," the letter reads. 

"As a result, we have made some changes to the experience for this upcoming week."

Changes will affect both elementary students, from kindergarten to grade eight, and secondary students, from Grade 9 to 12. The board called the increase "significant."

Province 'hasn't gotten this right yet,' Brampton mayor says

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said he understands that families are reluctant to send their children back to the classroom in person.

"I can appreciate why there's apprehension with families sending their children to school. Peel and the GTA is at the epicentre of the battle in Canada," Brown said on Sunday.

"And right now with escalating case numbers, I think there's a lot of families who feel that the government hasn't gotten this right yet."

Brown said parents are torn because, on the one hand, they want their children to be with their peers, but on the other, they are concerned about class sizes and the health and safety of students at school. "It creates legitimate concerns," he said.

The mayor said it's important to remember that it's common for multiple generations of people to live together in Peel Region and living arrangements could pose an increased risk of transmission among family members when it comes to COVID-19.

Jill Promoli, middle, reads to her two children, Thomas, left, and Isla, right. (Farrah Merali/CBC)

One parent said she is not surprised that so many students have switched to online learning.

Jill Promoli, a mother of two children in the Peel public school system, said both of her children have gone back to class in person, but the family will monitor the situation.

Promoli said parents are concerned about class sizes, the number of classes being left empty, and the fact that decisions are being made at the last minute.

"No, I'm not surprised actually. I think this is something we kind of expected we would start to see happening," she said. 

"At this point, we've opted to send them, but we are keeping an eye on it. We are in Peel and we know there's case numbers that are ticking up in our region."

Elementary students to start with 'learning experiences'

From Sept. 14 to 18, the board says elementary students will be provided with "online learning experiences" that they can finish at their own pace. 

"These learning experiences will be organized by grade level and connected to the Ontario curriculum, with a focus on numeracy and literacy. While parents/caregivers are able to assist their child with these activities, they have been designed for students to complete independently," the letter says.

Each morning, starting Sept. 14, the activities will be posted to the board's online school learning website and students are encouraged to click on "Elementary Students" on the home page.

On Sept. 17 or 18, online school staff and teachers will connect with families to welcome students and to provide details about instruction, schedules and tools. 

Live online classes with teachers, or teaching in real time online, will start on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020 for elementary students.

Secondary students to start with 'inquiry project'

From Sept. 15 to 21, the board says secondary students will work on a cross-curricular independent inquiry project aligned with particular core subjects, such as English, math, science and social sciences. Project details will be available on the online school learning website on Tuesday, Sept. 15.

"These projects will be reviewed by teachers as a pre-instruction assessment opportunity to gauge where students are in their learning," the letter reads.
By Sept. 18, students will receive their timetables for the quadmester through their Peel student email accounts.

Live online classes with course teachers, or teaching in real time online, will begin on Tuesday, Sept. 22 for secondary students.

In a letter to families, the Peel District School Board calls the number of students switching from in-person to online learning 'significant.' (CBC)

'These are truly unprecedented times,' board says

The board says there are online activities on its website to help students make the transition to online learning. "Your online teacher will be able to address any questions you have about these materials when they connect with you," the letter says. 

Students are urged to contact their community schools if they have questions about resetting email passwords or if they need computers. 

"These are truly unprecedented times, and we appreciate your patience and understanding during this transition back to school and as we navigate this new way of teaching and learning. We remain committed to providing all students with a high-quality education, whether they are learning in person or online," the letter says.

The Toronto District School Board says it will have 70,000 elementary and secondary students doing online learning or what it calls "Virtual School." 

With files with Talia Ricci, Farrah Merali, Sarah-Émilie Bouchard