While some students may have been excited over the prospect of not returning to the classroom to finish off their school years, the transition to online learning was a difficult but successful change, says leaders of both local school boards.

Students left their classrooms for the March break, but were never able to return due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This brought online learning assignments to the forefront, which are expected to continue into the fall.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced that the return to school in the fall of 2020-21 will be voluntary and based on parent choice. For those who don’t wish to send their kids to school, school boards will be required to offer additional online learning courses.

Director of Education for the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board Sherri-Lynne Pharand and Director of Education for the Kenora Catholic District School Board, Derek Haime, both say their teachers are doing everything they can to make the transition easier for students.

“Virtual learning has been a shift in thinking for all of us,” said Pharand. “As with any new learning, there’s always a bit of a new learning curve.”

Pharand notes the board has held information sessions with parents to help introduce them to their child’s learning technologies, a platform to virtually support staff and teachers, and a survey for families, which Pharand says saw both positive and negative comments and concerns, which the board has worked to address.

“Staff have really worked with families and students on an individual basis to make it work as well as we possibly can. We know face-to-face learning is the best way to go, but for safety we couldn’t do that. Everyone has really buckled down to create the best learning environment possible,” says Haime.

“With teacher-directed at-home learning, all of sudden there’s not only 30 different students with 30 different learning styles, there’s 30 different learning environments. It’s amazing how our staff took that information and adapted.”

“I’d be here for a year explaining all of the different modifications teachers made with families, students, staff and more to meet the needs. Everything from delivering paperwork, setting up internet at homes, outdoor activities, crafts, baking, on top of the book work and learning. There’s been so many creative things that have been done.”

Haime says the KCDSB will be hosting literacy and numeracy skill programs throughout July, secondary school courses throughout the summer, and are working on a return-to-school transition program in August, if health guidelines allow it.

For more information:
How local school boards adapted to COVID-19
A unique, but special graduation for 2020 students