Stop the disastrous hybrid learning model proposed by the DPCDSB

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We are calling on the Ministry of Education and the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board to stop the disastrous proposed hybrid learning model to be instituted on November 2, 2020. 

This year, Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board (DPCDSB) families were faced with the difficult decision of choosing learning modes offered by the school board. For those who chose online learning we were promised delivery of the full Ontario curriculum through structured synchronous learning. This is now no longer what parents agreed to in August of this year. Adapting to the synchronous learning model involved a significant amount of sacrifice from some families to ensure a successful transition for their children. There have been a variety of challenges faced by families, but one thing that has made this transition easier has been the dedicated support we have received from their remote teachers.

We implore you to consider the impact this has on the children and their families. Just as our children have begun adjusting to their new routines, bonding with their teachers and forming new friendships, they are being forced to adapt to a new way of learning yet again. As parents we agreed to the current model not a hybrid model. There has been no consultation with parents of online-learners, further to that there has been little to no explanation of how this model will be instituted or how it might work. Parents cannot agree to something that they are completely in the dark on.

This new hybrid model will greatly impact the level of education offered to both online and in-class students for the following reasons:

·          Teachers are now being tasked with the impossible. Having to divide their time and attention between both in- class students and virtual students simultaneously. This is not an effective teaching method for either cohort and students will inevitably fall behind. This is particularly detrimental for younger learners such as those in FDK and primary students (grade 1-3) who require the direct attention and instruction of the classroom teacher to not only learn but often to stay focused and engaged. This hybrid model ignores this need.

·         Curriculum: Virtual students are, on average, one month behind the in-class students. This is due to the fact that it took a significant amount of time to create and implement the virtual school and co-ordinate and assign classroom teachers. Virtual students are already behind academically and teachers will now have to have play ‘catch up’ and somehow find the time to assess and determine the learning needs of these students which takes up precious instructional time of all learners. This will inevitably lead to gaps in their learning, especially for students who have to date not been provided with the French curriculum. By the time this hybrid model is instituted in early November, those students will be a full two months behind in that curriculum as well. As parents we cannot imagine how those students will ever catch up to their in-class peers.

·         Technology: Current technology also poses a concern and disruption to ALL students. How will the DPCDSB ensure that each school will have the broadband/network capacity to have every class streaming for the full instructional day at the same time? This includes sound quality and the reduction of in school background noise in addition to multiple cameras and angles to allow virtual learners to access the curriculum, teacher, peers and participate in the full classroom experience. This model also may very well violate the privacy policies within the school setting.

·         Transition: It is unacceptable that families who opted for a synchronous separate learning model in August and patiently awaited the creation of the virtual school, which in fact did not even come to fruition until late September early October, are now having to make yet another transition. The vast majority of virtual students have already established a routine and developed positive relationships with their teachers and in some cases even made new friends. This hybrid model throws families, students and teachers into complete upheaval. To quote Marianne Mazarotto, DPCDSB’s director of education in her statement to CP24 news, this would provide students with a “seamless transition”. This is not the case for the thousands of already established remote learning students, and their families.

·         Time: Teachers are now expected to learn and decipher new technology, create lessons as per usual and then learn how to create and transfer that material digitally at the same time. This expectation and these demands placed on teachers is incredible. Teachers cannot be expected to learn all this in the time frame provided by the DPCDSB while continuing to teach in-class students. This does not even take into account the teachers who are currently teaching multiple grades.

·         Health risk: Educators will be forced to share their time and attention between both cohorts of students. For younger learners it will be next to impossible to ensure that the in-class students are adhering to the public health measures such as physical distancing, proper masking, hand hygiene, not sharing items etc. These measures are what is keeping the schools open for parents who do not have the option of online learning, this could potentially contribute to an increased rate of transmission within the school community.

·         Special Education: The issue regarding students with exceptional needs who attend in-class has not been clarified.  The potential for possible disruptions and/or stops and starts during instructional time to support these students will now be on virtual full display for anyone to see. This is a complete violation of this vulnerable populations right to privacy.

·         Privacy: Under this hybrid model, cameras in the classroom will be absolutely necessary to accommodate virtual students. Parental consent is required by those families whose children are learning in-class. Classrooms will now be broadcasted into homes as teachers struggle to provide lessons virtually and in class concurrently.

As parents we have been given little to no information of how this model will be implemented or how it will work. When attempting to reach out to our school trustees, no information seems to be available at this time, questions and concerns remain unanswered. The lack of communication from the school board is unacceptable! This tells us parents that it is an idea, NOT a plan. Success is solely dependent on thorough planning, as parents can see this is not what is happening here.

We propose that the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District school board either scrap this model entirely, or only institute it for those students who have already been in class so far, and are looking to switch learning modes. Parents want to keep the mode of learning that was agreed upon in August. The board cannot and should not be allowed to breach the agreement made with parents of children who for various reasons are unable to attend in person classes. This has been done in bad faith, with zero consultation or explanation to parents of students. For the reasons listed above this will have serious impacts to all students and should not be allowed to proceed.