Workload for families overseeing homeschoolers concerns Rainbow Board’s Director of Education

Shutterstock

Parents/guardians keeping students at home during pandemic cannot opt back to in-school learning until November

MANITOULIN – Rainbow District School Board (RDSB) Director of Education Norm Blaseg worries that parents who have opted not to enrol their children in face-to-face learning, but rather choosing distance learning, do not realize the full extent of the learning requirements for which they will be responsible: 300 minutes each day of learning time.

As of the Friday, August 21 enrolment cut-off date, 12,070 of the almost 13,500 RDSB students have been enrolled to start in September. Of those 12,070 students, 80 percent will be appearing in person while the other 20 percent will be learning from home. The remaining 1,400 outstanding students’ parents will be receiving phone calls from their principals this week, Mr. Blaseg said.

The director of education admits that these figures will present some challenges.

Mr. Blaseg explained that each September, the RDSB undertakes what they call a “re-org,” or reorganization based on the attendance figures of the first two weeks of school.

“We are always bound by primary class size (as mandated by the province) and our collective agreements; we still need to respect those,” he said.

Following the first two weeks of school, the board will examine each of their 40 schools and determine whether any classes should be collapsed or added. “If there is a surplus at a school (meaning a class was collapsed), that teacher would become a distance teacher,” Mr. Blaseg explained.

“Over the next few days, we’ll look to see what a re-org looks like; if we can’t re-org, we’ll have to go out and hire folks,” the director of education continued.

Mr. Blaseg admitted that there have been challenges in making sure parents understand what remote learning will look like—a far cry from the remote learning that took place in the province from March 13 to June 30.

Mr. Blaseg said that, as someone who has been attending an abundance of online meetings in recent months, he knows first-hand how exhausting this form of learning can be. He said he worries that parents will not be able to facilitate the same kind of structure their children would have in-class while learning from home, despite their best efforts. 

“Do parents know what this is going to mean?” he queried. “I just worry about it. How is this going to be taxing a parent with a child in Grade 2 or 3?”

Mr. Blaseg reminds parents that once they make the decision to do at-home learning, they must stick with that decision until mid-November, when they can opt their child back in for face-to-face classes.

“I’m going to suggest that this is not going to be easy,” Mr. Blaseg said. “If (parents) change their mind in the next week, that’s probably amenable, but there will be a firm cut-off date.”

The director of education suggested parents look at the Ministry of Education’s Policy/Program Memorandum No. 164 (Google ‘PPM164’), which outlines the requirements for remote learning and “highlights the amount of demands on parents and students. It’s very different from March 13 to June 30. There’s much more structure.”

Mr. Blaseg said unlike the spring, gone is the on- and off-line piece. During remote learning, students and parents will be provided with a daily schedule or timetable that includes 300 minutes of learning opportunities, with a combination of synchronous (learning that happens in real time) and asynchronous (learning not delivered in real time, such a pre-recorded video) learning activities. Programming must be based on the full Ontario curriculum and include opportunities for guided instruction, large- and small-group learning, synchronous check-ins and asynchronous independent work.

The daily minimum synchronous learning time requirement is as follows: Kindergarten, 180 minutes; Grades 1 to 3, 225 minutes; Grades 4 to 8, 225 minutes; Grade 9 to 12, 60 minutes a day for each 75-minute period or 225 minutes per day for a full course schedule.

“From March to June, the ministry was gracious in that no child’s marks would be affected (by the pandemic interruption), but now students are starting off in the normal (academic) context,” Mr. Blaseg added.