Ontario school board asks province to withdraw hybrid in-class, online teaching model
TORONTO -- A Toronto-area school board is asking the provincial government to withdraw the hybrid in-class and online teaching model for elementary school students in September, saying the plan relies heavily on childcare and may result in elevated exposure to COVID-19.
In mid-June, a little over three months since schools were shuttered due to the pandemic, the Ontario government asked school boards to create three plans for how students could return to class in the fall.
The three options included either returning to in-person instruction while adhering to public health measures, continuing remote learning or taking part in a hybrid model that would see a maximum of 15 students come into class on alternative days or weeks.
While the premier and Ontario’s education minister said they would like to see all students in class come the fall, they have urged school boards to plan for the third blending option.
On Monday, the Trustees of the Halton District School Board sent a letter to Education Minister Stephen Lecce calling on the government to withdraw the hybrid model and to provide additional funding for a 15-student daily attendance model instead.
“The hybrid model that boards have been directed to develop relies heavily on accessible and affordable childcare so that working parents may participate in the workforce. In Halton, that means a childcare need for up to 36,000 students in kindergarten to grade 6,” the trustees said in the letter.
“This volume of childcare space does not currently exist in Halton Region and established daytime childcare within the region focuses on preschool aged children.”
Andrea Grebenc, chair of the board of trustees, told CTV News Toronto that while most of the region’s childcare facilities have reopened, most students in Kindergarten to Grade 6 have never needed the service during the school year.
“This is a whole new market that would have to open up immediately to take care of these children while their parents are at work,” she said.
Instead, Grebenc said that parents may have to stay home from their jobs, older children may be asked to look after their younger siblings, or more community-based facilities would open up that may not adhere to public safety measures.
The school board also argues that it would be safer if students returned to class full-time, claiming that allowing students to move between child care environments and classrooms often “increases their exposures and elevates students’ risk of infection.”
“This model, which disrupts the classroom “bubble”, will be counterproductive to limiting widespread community infection and poses great challenges to contact tracing efforts,” they said.
The Toronto District School Board has released a number of options for how classes could resume come September. Each option requires the hiring of more staff and an increase in funding.
If Toronto schools group elementary students into cohorts of 15 for full-time in-class instruction, that would require hiring 2,500 more teachers and cost about $249 million.
The board added that the hybrid model will place “a tremendous burden” on parents and caregivers, particularly women and low-income families.
Grebenc said that the ultimate decision about what model is used in schools is up to the Ontario government.