CORNWALL, Ontario – The Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) has cancelled its separate remote learning stream for elementary school students, instead, teachers will now be expected to teach in class, as well as remote students and asynchronous learners.
Asynchronous students are divided into two separate groups. Teachers will be expected to provide group one with digital material, including taped lessons, to learn at home, and group two will be supplied print material. In total, UCDSB Elementary school teachers are now responsible for four separate learning streams.
Erin Blair, President of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario Upper Canada Local explained to Seaway News how this shift by the UCDSB will overburden teachers and hurt students education.
“It is a challenge on a good day to engage all of the students that are in front of you,” he said. “Now you have to focus on the students at home and in class at the same time and that is two different types of teaching.”
Blair speculated that the UCDSB increased the workload for teachers as a cost cutting measure. He called on the Board to return to the separate streams for remote and in class learning, which was outlined by the provincial government.
In late August, the province announced it would use $36 million from the federal government to ensure that school boards can provide dedicated remote learning streams for both elementary and secondary school students. The UCDSB currently is not providing a separate learning stream for remote learners for secondary schools students or elementary school students despite the funding being offered by the province.
“We certainly want to see them engaging the government to seek more funds to do things how they should be done,” he said, adding that the ETFO would likely be initiating a grievance with the Board.
During a meeting of Board Trustees on Aug. 26, the same day the province announced funding for separate remote learning, UCDSB Superintendent Susan Rutters explained to the trustees why this would not be feasible for the Board.
“To meet this challenge, we first considered a full reorganization of physical schools to free up more teachers for remote learning,” Rutters explained, but said they quickly found this option to be cost prohibitive and would not meet the need in any case.
Rutters stated that the Board was overwhelmed by the response from parents, after a survey showed that 20 per cent of responding parents would prefer enrolling their child in remote learning.
Seaway News reached out for an interview with UCDSB Director of Education Stephen Sliwa on Monday, Sept. 21, but the Board stated that it would decline to comment at this time.