The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) has released details surrounding the registration preferences of parents and guardians for children for the upcoming school year in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and a large majority of those who responded indicated support for in-person options.
In a statement released by the TDSB on Wednesday, officials said they contacted the parents of more than 173,000 elementary students and more than 74,000 secondary students by telephone or email to choose in-person or virtual learning.
The Board reported hearing from 89 per cent of students, leaving schools to follow-up with parents and guardians who didn’t respond.
The statement said staff heard from 90 per cent of parents and guardians of students between Kindergarten and Grade 8, and 70 per cent (representing more than 107,000 students) chose the in-person learning option and 30 per cent (representing more than 47,000 students) chose the virtual learning option.
When it comes to secondary school students (Grades 9 through 12), the in-person option selection was higher. The statement said staff heard from 87 per cent of parents and guardians and 78 per cent (representing more than 49,000 students) chose in-person learning and 22 per cent (representing almost 14,000 students) opted for virtual learning.
For adult day and alternative studies students, staff said they heard from 57 per cent of students as part of the pre-registration process. Forty-four per cent of students opted for in-person learning, 45 per cent opted for virtual learning, and 11 per cent said they weren’t going to return to school.
However, the enrolment numbers are subject to change after the school year begins on Sept. 15.
The Toronto District School Board said parents can shift students on Oct. 13, Nov. 23 and Feb. 16, 2021. Parents will need to apply to make the move with a deadline set approximately two weeks before each date. The board said it’s not possible to switch immediately because of the impact that would have on staffing, physical distancing and space allocation.
The results came days before classes were set to resume in boards across Ontario. The Ford government has faced increasing pressure over its COVID-19 back-to-school plan.
School boards, teachers’ unions and some parents have called on the government to mandate smaller class sizes to ensure physical distancing is possible in the classroom — and provide funding to make it happen.
The province’s strategy will see students in kindergarten through Grade 8 return to school without any reduction in class sizes, though students will spend the day in a single cohort to limit contact with other children.
Many high schoolers will also be in class full-time, though secondary students at 24 boards across the province will do half of their classes online.
Premier Doug Ford has defended his government’s plan repeatedly in recent weeks, calling it the best in the country and saying it was created in consultation with experts.
— With files from The Canadian Press