Toronto

York Catholic board to combine in-person, remote elementary classes due to staffing problems

The York Catholic District School Board says it is reorganizing elementary school classes due to staffing problems and will merge students learning virtually with those learning in person into one classroom starting next week.

New 'hybrid model' will begin next week, letter from board tells parents

In a letter to parents on Wednesday, Mary Battista, the board's interim director of education, said this new 'hybrid model' will begin on Oct. 14. The model will allow all elementary students to be a part of their home school, the letter says. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The York Catholic District School Board says it is reorganizing elementary school classes due to staffing problems and will merge students learning virtually with those learning in person into one classroom starting next week.

Each of the combined classes will be under the direction of a single teacher.

In a letter to parents on Wednesday, Mary Battista, the board's interim director of education, said this new "hybrid model" will begin on Oct. 14. The model will allow all elementary students to be a part of their home school, the letter says.

"Given the various operational and staffing challenges faced in the current remote learning model, and the need to find a solution that is sustainable for the remainder of the school year, a decision has been made in the best interest of all elementary students," she said.

"This new hybrid model blends face-to-face learners with remote learners into the same class under the direction of the home school classroom teacher."

According to the board, the new model has "numerous benefits." These include keeping students learning virtually in their home school with their friends, maintaining physical distancing in classrooms, and allowing students to move "seamlessly" from learning in class to virtual learning or vice versa.

The board says if parents want their child to move from in-person learning to virtual learning, they will be able to do so at any time. Schools will no longer require specific re-entry dates throughout the school year, she said.

Principals will accommodate requests by parents for children to move from virtual to in-person learning where there is enough space in classrooms to allow for physical distancing, she added.

All York Catholic elementary schools will be closed to students on Oct. 13 to allow staff to prepare for the new "hybrid classrooms." The school administration will reorganize classes in the coming days and notify parents about where their children will be placed. 

"We understand that this is very short notice for parents and apologize for the inconvenience and disruption this may cause. This day will be used by staff to complete the necessary preparations to welcome face-to-face and remote learners to their classrooms," Battista said.

For virtual learners, the new classroom teacher will contact parents on Oct. 13 to provide login information.

Students will be assigned to their grade level and then to a specific teacher. The class will be taught as usual by the assigned teacher, with virtual learners joining daily by Google Classroom.
 
"Students will enjoy a normal classroom experience, regardless of their chosen learning format. It is our firm belief that this format will better serve our students' educational needs, re-establish links with classmates and promote positive mental health," Battista said.

She noted that while most classes will consist of an in-person teacher with both remote and in-person face-to-face students, some schools will have a few exclusively virtual classes to accommodate the large number of remote learners.

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