‘No guarantee’ students can switch between at-home and in-school learning

By Jenn Watt

Students who want to switch between in-school and at-home learning will have their name added to a waitlist, with the school board evaluating monthly which students on the list can be reassigned.

On Oct. 7, Trillium Lakelands District School Board posted an update to families by director of education Wes Hahn outlining the board’s plans.
“At this point, any parent/guardian wishing for a change from one learning option to another must have their child’s name placed on a waiting list by contacting their child’s home school,” Hahn wrote. “The waiting lists will be reviewed and changes will be made if possible over the course of the school year. Our guiding principles for these decisions include class size regulations and staffing, so not all moves may be possible. It is important to note that there is no guarantee of a change for your child.”

The post triggered comments on Facebook from parents who said their understanding was that students who wanted to switch learning venues could do so at the end of October.
“When we made our decisions on doing in-school learning we were told at the end of October we would have the choice to move them over to online if desired,” one commenter wrote, “now that it’s nearing the middle of October our decision has been taken away from us and now it’s a waiting list and you may not get the choice! That’s wrong, if we deem our child would be better off at home instead of in-school we should be able to make that choice!”

In an email sent to families in August, TLDSB said that registration selections would remain in place until October.
“Many families want to know if they can change their mind about their choice for in-school or at-home learning. Once your choice has been made, this will remain the program for your child until late October,” the email sent in August read. “We cannot make changes prior to this because any change means alterations to classroom cohorts and to bussing route schedules. This decision has been made in the best interest of safety of our students and our staff.”

TLDSB communications officer Sinead Fegan said the board has been working with parents whose children are on the waitlist and with a recent staffing reorganization have “worked to address many of the students on the waitlists.”
Fegan said she couldn’t give a figure for how many students are on the waitlist because it is constantly changing, but said names would be reviewed monthly.
“Moving forward, the waitlist will be reviewed at the beginning of each month,” she said. “We will not make changes/switches where a change will make us exceed class cap sizes.”

The board also added teachers for those doing at-home learning using paper materials, rather than online.
A parent had commented on the TLDSB Facebook page that their child had not yet received paper materials. “We are doing learning from home with the educational materials supplied by the board in ‘paper and pen’ format,” the parent wrote. “We still haven’t received anything. Two weeks ago we were told we would have materials by Friday, Sept. 25.”

An update to the board’s website on Oct. 8 reads that the teachers will be in contact with families the week of Oct. 13 to 16 with full implementation of the paper program on Oct. 16.