By Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative
The director of education for the public school board is reminding parents that their children could have multiple teachers in an academic year, even if they stay with their respective face-to-face or virtual learning models.
“I’m sharing it because I’m not sure it’s something that is fully and clearly understood out there no matter how many times we’ve tried to communicate it,” said John Howitt, director of education, Lambton-Kent District School Board (LKDSB) at Tuesday’s board meeting.
Parents will be given the official option three times a year to switch how their children attend school. If more students opt for virtual learning, or in-person learning, class sizes and staffing will be affected.
“I want to be really transparent about it. That means we will have students this school year who will have multiple teachers. That is a potential; that a student could stay in the same program, face-to-face or virtual, but have multiple teachers throughout the year,” Howitt said.
Thirty to 35 new teachers were hired to have dedicated staff to the virtual school and as larger classrooms split into smaller sizes.
“If that somebody turns into a lot of bodies, then we are going to have to reorganize classes again. For example, if my Grade 2 class face to face has 18 students and 10 Grade 2s want to come back to my school, we’re not going to be very happy with the class size of 28,” Howitt explained to trustees.
The virtual secondary school has approximately 800 students enrolled, 15 per cent of the student body. The elementary school that has approximately 2,000 students, 13.5 per cent of the student body, enrolled.
The secondary virtual teachers will be working out of the composite school in Dresden and the elementary school teachers for Chatham-Kent will be located in Blenheim District High School. Virtual teachers also have the option of working from home if they are high risk themselves.
There is also no guarantee that students who transfer education models will be at the same point in the curriculum as their previous class.
A quadmester approach with only two subjects taught in a 44-day cycle was adopted for the face-to-face learning model. One class will be taught per day per week, rotating with the second subject every week.
Howitt explained that the virtual classroom will mirror the quadmester model to make transition easier.
Secondary students who switch over will complete their credits at their respective schools and then start over fresh with their remaining credit courses once they switch to in-person or virtual learning.
Elementary students, who do not follow a sequential curriculum pattern, could face the risk of starting into a different unit.
“We can’t guarantee that a teacher who’s using their professional judgment on delivering the curriculum to their students will be in the same place as others across the board,” Howitt said. “If you do the unit on pioneers while I am doing the unit on space, it might not match up exactly.”
Howitt compared the situation to a parent moving houses and schools during the middle of the year.
“So that’s a reality we face all the time in the class and we just focus on the overall expectations,” he said.
Parents who move houses and need their children to transfer schools will be accommodated as normal, like any other school year.
A parent in the in-person or virtual learning model who wants to switch can request prior to the three officially set dates, however, there is no guarantee they will be accommodated in advance.
Families wishing to transfer between face-to-face learning to Learn at Home or transfer from Learn at Home to face-to-face instruction must contact their principal according to the following timelines:
Fall date: Families notify school by Oct. 22. Students begin a new program type on Nov. 16.
Winter date: Families notify school by Jan. 12. Students begin a new program type on Feb. 3.
Spring date: Families notify school by March 30. Students begin a new program type on April 20.