Durham District School Board asks parents to decide on virtual learning

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The Durham District School Board is asking parents to choose what type of learning they want for their children. But parents only have less than two weeks to make a decision — a choice that parents like TJ Taylor aren’t taking lightly.

“We’re just going off the seat of our pants at this point,” says Taylor.

The Pickering mom has two kids at Durham schools and one child going into kindergarten next year. She says with the uncertainty over the past year, her kids have flip-flopped at least four times. And now with the stay-at-home order, they still don’t know what’s happening with the rest of the year.

“Are they going back into school? Or are they staying online?” she says.

“I’m really stuck in a place where I really don’t know how to make a decision for September.”

In an email sent to parents of children from kindergarten to Grade 8, they were asked to make a choice about choosing virtual or in-person learning for the 2021-22 school year.

It’s a position the school board appreciates may be difficult. Jim Markovski, associate director of equitable education, says it’s important to know ahead of time to plan for staffing — especially when you are trying to arrange education for more than 74,000 students.

“It’s a multi-month process, really,” says Markovski.

“It does take time and a significant level of planning in relation to how it is looking at next year.”

Markovski says after the unpredictable schedules and flipping back and forth over the past year, the earlier the board knows numbers, the easier it is for it to organize the education plan.

“Knowing that we have limited resources and the need to allocate them here, there appears to be the most demand.”

Stacy Oulette has two kids in the program and says she has no issue with picking something right now.

“I’d be fine with it. No problems. I didn’t agree with (my daughter) coming to online learning after school break.”

Oulette says with the lack of socializing her children have had, being able to choose for them to finally go back to in-person learning is an easy decision.

“Mental health-wise, I think it’s important for them to get back,” she says. “My daughter is almost eight and son is 10. Definitely better for them to be with their friends.”

Parents have until 11:59 p.m. on May 4 to make their decision using the parent portal on the school board’s website.

Now the idea will be to try and stick with the program parents choose. The school board is asking parents to make their decision carefully as there won’t be an opportunity to switch back and forth. But Markovski says they understand with the changing climate, things could change.

“If we do find ourselves in a different position going into the summer and into the school year, we will communicate with people at that time,” he says.

“We will always work with our families and if there is a requirement for additional support in relation to that decision.”

For Oulette’s daughter, she’s just happy with the idea of looking forward to what school is all about.

“I get to see all my friends,” she says.

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