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Majority of students will return to classroom

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Around 20 per cent of all students have chosen to learn remotely for the upcoming school year while the rest will return to the classroom, the public school board said on Monday.

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Final results from the Upper Canada District School Board’s recent enrolment survey found 80 per cent of those attending both elementary and secondary schools – 18,054 students – have chosen to return to the classroom full-time.

The remaining 20 per cent, or 4,452 students, will learn from home – with the vast majority being elementary students.

The board says 3,184 elementary students have chosen the remote learning option for the start of the new school year, representing a whopping 71 per cent of all students taking that route. At the high school level, 1,268 students will learn from home.

Stephen Sliwa, the board’s director of education, said it was critical for the board to know how students will be learning for the upcoming school year so they could plan accordingly.

“We know that this wasn’t an easy decision for parents, as there are many factors to consider,” Sliwa said in a statement.

“We all want what is best for students right now and only our families can decide that.”

The education ministry required all school boards throughout the province to provide the option for students to learn from home this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They will learn synchronously with students in the classroom, but they will have a different teacher dedicated to remote learners.

The final results represent a “significant shift” from a preliminary survey completed by 5,000 families in July, the board said. At the time, that survey saw just 6 per cent of respondents considering remote learning.

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“Although this school year will look very different, what hasn’t changed is our dedication to our students,” Sliwa said.

“Our immediate priorities are to ensure that our school staff and facilities are ready for the safe return of students. We are devoting additional attention to the increased numbers of students who have selected remote learning for the 2020-2021 school year to ensure that we have the necessary staffing in place.”

For the students who’ve chosen to return to the classroom, the board says there will be enhanced health and hygiene practices developed in conjunction with the local public health unit.

Among many other changes to the school day, masks will be required for students in Grades 4 to 12, hand sanitizer or hand-wash stations have been set up in all classrooms, cleaning will be enhanced in high touch areas, and signage will be used to indicate traffic flow within schools.

A protocol for what will happen in a school if a student gets COVID-19 is not yet complete, the board said. The public health unit is currently working on an outbreak strategy for local schools and it will be released when it’s done, a spokesperson from the health unit said.

For families that did not fill out the enrolment form, those students will be automatically put into in-person learning at their local school, the board said. If this doesn’t work, those families need to contact their local school the week of Aug. 24.

There’s also still time for those parents who’ve filled out the form but have changed their minds. This can be done by contacting the school by the end of this week, as well.

sbedford@postmedia.com

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