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Schools face staff and classroom reorganization as students choose ‘virtual learning”

Sean Monteith

The wave of students signing up for ‘virtual’ learning has the Hastings Prince Edward District School Board re-organizing classrooms and staff.

Director of Education Sean Monteith told parents and guardians in a letter Friday afternoon the first five weeks of school have been remarkably successful given the challenges and realities.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the board also created and opened a virtual school serving approximately 1,750 students (kindergarten to Grade 12), and hired and put in place teachers, administrators, support staff and technical support.

As the first ‘octomester’ ends and the second is to begin Oct. 8, parents and guardians were asked to decide between in-person, or online learning.

“This week we learned from our families that an additional approximately 750 students will join the virtual school cohort, bringing the total enrolment to approximately 2,500 students. This makes the HPEDSB Virtual School our largest school in the district.

“Unfortunately, this also means that 2,500 students we were expecting to be in our conventional physical schools are no longer there. This has implications for every classroom in every school across the entire school board. We know that we are required to staff more teachers and support for the additional students in the virtual school, and we know that we have a significantly less number of students in our physical schools than we were planning for before the pandemic.

“Therefore, we will be required to reorganize our schools by reducing the number of staff in our physical schools because of the enrolment decline, and adding more staff to the virtual school environment to support all of the students there,” said Monteith.

He noted reorganization of schools and classrooms at any time is disruptive, can cause confusion, and in his experience is upsetting for students and staff alike.

“Having to complete a reorganization into a school year such as this, and as a direct result of a pandemic is even more challenging. Over the next few days administration in schools and staff will be informed of what this reorganization looks like, and what the impact will be for everyone.”

He stressed the board’s senior team has worked diligently to prepare for this, and “now knowing the wishes of our families, this responsibility ultimately rests with me. In over 25 years in education in Ontario, I can share with sincerity I have never had to face such difficult decisions as these, knowing that these decisions impact lives: the lives of children and staff.”

He notes the board will not be doing another reorganization and review of classrooms until January when the end of the secondary school semester would normally occur, and the end of the elementary term would annually arrive.

“To our families and parents/guardians, I ask for your understanding and your ongoing support for our teachers and staff,” he said. “To our staff, I ask for your patience and belief that we have made the best decisions possible under incredibly trying circumstances. And to our students, I ask you to remain hopeful knowing that we always consider the impact on you as children and learners first.”

Filed Under: Local News

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  1. Dennis Fox says:

    I hear and respect what you are saying Mr. Thomas – but as we have seen, the Toronto, Ottawa and Peel experiences with COVID is much different than what we have here in PEC – and we want to keep it that way. From what I have seen and experienced is that the citizens here have taken the COVID protocols seriously and have (for the most part) tried to follow them. As we know, the larger areas have experienced problems with crowd control – from the Trinity Bellwoods experience to the Ancaster Drag Races – all of these events and many others have resulted in jumps in COVID19 numbers. During the summer, there has been a lot of concern expressed by locals about the tourists not following the protocols.

    I “think” our source of concern boils down to the lack of control we have in limiting the visitors from these “Hot Spot” and preventing them from potentially spreading the virus here. As you may be aware – while still low, our numbers here since school started have increased. I believe the school board is reacting to the concerns that the parents have expressed to them – that’s their job. Better this way, than to have this virus drag on for another year because people would rather not be inconvenienced with protocols or by modifying their behaviour. As we know this is an odd period we are living through – it is time we all learn how to grin and bear it – or it will be a very long and sickly winter for all of us.

  2. Dave Thomas says:

    As a resident of the GTA and the County, I am baffled by the uptake in remote learning in the County. While I support the decisions of families to do what’s right for them, the incidence of Covid-19 is so low in the County, and the benefits of in-class learning so large, that I struggle to understand the shift to online. It has been a significant challenge for schools and teachers to adapt this year. Nervous parents flip-flopping in reaction to daily infection reports isn’t helpful.

  3. Dennis Fox says:

    I believe that both the Bd. of Ed. and the teachers have done a great job in handling this truly unusual time we are all living through. With the support of the parents and students, I’m sure that any reorganization needed will take place within the spirit of “we are all in this together.”

    However, I am very disappointed with the leadership and lack of planning by our provincial government. Thay had since last spring to plan and to prepare for this time and they let it slip through their fingers. Their attempt to save money by cutting back on COVID protocols has cost us so much more in all other areas – education being a major area, but now we are looking at a serious second wave – and we are not ready as a province. Let’s do what we can to help our schools.

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