Boards trying to estimate how many students will return to classrooms

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A Nanos Research online survey conducted in late June, commissioned by the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, had just over 2,000 responses.

About 12 per cent of the respondents with children in the public school system said they were likely to keep their children at home, with another 32 per cent said they were “somewhat likely” to keep their child at home.

Ottawa’s French Catholic board sent a notice to parents in late June asking if they were interested in having their children attend the board’s online school.

Board officials estimated that between 400 and 500 students would sign up, but parents of 1,700 students indicated an interest. The board is surveying parents again to confirm they still want online learning.

Meanwhile, it’s likely that some parents are hedging their bets, signing up for in-person school, then switching to online education if they don’t like the health and safety measures in place.

“I think this points to a need for clarity from the province and from the school boards about what resources will be in place,” said Kidder. “Provincial plans don’t seem to have as many health and safety criteria as bars do. That would give me pause. There’s a cognitive dissonance there.”

Kidder would prefer to see a “gentle” return to school — with starting dates staggered by age or grade, and a week for teachers to assess the emotional well-being of the students before launching into academics.

“The idea of a gentle return means you can gradually try things out and prepare instead of having to pivot and pivot again,” she said.

Even though schools are better-prepared for online learning than they were in the spring, equity in terms of online learning depends on a lot more than having the right technology and access to the internet, said Kidder.

“Not all families have the ability to support their children at home. Some families have a lot more capacity than others.”

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