After less than a month of classes, approximately 7,500 elementary school students at Canada’s largest school board have made the switch from in-person to online learning, according to data provided by Toronto District School Board officials.
Previously, some 60,000 TDSB students choose virtual school this fall — but a recent surge in COVID-19 cases across the province has led even more families to make the switch where it’s offered.
Some families, however, are choosing the opposite.
Approximately 3,000 students have opted to switch from virtual school to in-person learning.
Families with children in the TDSB were given the option by the board to switch between in-person and online at three dates throughout the school year.
The first deadline to request for the change was Wednesday at 4 p.m. The next two dates fall on Nov. 6 and Jan. 29, 2021.
Overall, there are approximately 76,500 students in the board’s virtual school — approximately 58,500 elementary students and 18,000 secondary students.
High school students are able to request the switch on Nov. 23, as well as Feb. 8 and April 23, 2021.
The data comes as Ontario is seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases, with 538 new cases reported Thursday. Of those, 229 were reported in Toronto.
Nearly half of Peel students learning online
Meanwhile, in Peel Region, nearly half of students at public elementary schools have already opted to learn online, according to data provided by the Peel District School Board.
Upwards of 54,600 elementary students have opted for remote learning this year in that board and 57,300 have returned to the classroom.
The Peel board saw a sharp increase in students opting for remote learning over the course of the last month, according to numbers it shared.
In late August, just 35,800 students had registered for online learning, compared to 78,300 who indicated a preference for in-class lessons.
The Catholic school board in the region — the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board — said about 14,150 elementary students are learning online, compared to 32,400 who have returned to the classroom, meaning just 30 per cent are taking remote classes.
Vickita Bhatt, an elementary teacher with the Peel board, said the number of students learning from home has had little effect on life in the classroom.
“Some families thought that, ‘If I keep my child at home, then that might alleviate the burden and that might mean smaller classroom sizes for those that need to send their kids to face-to-face school, because they’re front-line workers, etc.,”‘ she said.
That, Bhatt said, was a misconception.
The school funding model, which is based largely on the number of students in a given classroom, has meant the board needed to collapse and combine in-person classes, she said.
The Peel board’s high schools, meanwhile, are running on an adapted model, with students who chose in-class learning only attending school half the time to minimize contact with their peers.
Still, the board said 27 per cent of high schoolers — around 11,200 — are learning fully online.
Province updates COVID-19 screening guidance for students
Meanwhile, Ontario has updated updated its COVID-19 screening guidance for children in school to remove abdominal pain and pink eye from the list of symptoms.
It also says children with symptoms such as a runny nose or headache can now return to school or daycare after 24 hours — if they have just one symptom and their condition improves.
Those with two or more symptoms or those with a fever or cough are still being advised to stay home until a doctor is consulted or the child tests negative for COVID-19.
The Ministry of Health says it’s providing updated information to help parents determine when it’s appropriate for students, children and their families to be tested for COVID-19.
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