Teachers are prepping for a new kind of back to school this year with a lot of unknowns.
Students in the Thames Valley Distinct School Board (TVDSB) and London District Catholic School Board (LDCSB) will be starting the school year on Monday.
Stephanie Stinson, an ESL teacher at Princess Elizabeth Public School in London, told Global News like many of her colleagues, there are mixed emotions as they try to adjust to the new normal.
“We have been working really hard with a flawed plan to get ready for next Monday, but there is a lot of uncertainty,” Stinson said.
Stinson works with students who are just starting to learn English and said having to wear a mask creates barriers like students not being able to pick up on facial cues like a smile.
She is also worried that she will be working in multiple classes and the possibility of getting COVID or possibly spreading it to other people.
“My understanding is it’s the same as last year but with masks and a little cleaning.”
Stinson said she wishes that the government considered a plan with smaller class sizes, so it’s easier to keep groups of students apart.
The LDCSB sent its survey to families in mid-August and said it saw a 92 per cent response rate.
The board serves about 22,000 students, and 90 per cent of respondents have chosen to send their children back to school, leaving about 2,700 students who will continue remote learning.
The TVDSB, which serves about 82,000 students in London, Elgin County, Middlesex County and Oxford County, said it saw a 95 per cent response rate.
The survey shows about 65,000 students will return for in-person learning, while more than 12,000 students will continue remote learning at home.
For other teachers like Dave Sorrell back to school is a lot different as he will teach a group of students entirely online.
Sorrel is one of several teachers who were asked to volunteer to teach students online this year.
“There are a lot of things we still don’t know,” he said.
“A lot of unknowns, but we are hoping for positive outcomes for teachers and students, and we will learn a lot as we go along.”
He said unlike when students were first switched to online six months ago, this version of e-learning will be more structured, and hopefully, students will be able to get back to some normalcy.
“There will be assessments, they will be able to hand things in online, a lot more give and take — this will be an upgraded experience.”
On Friday, the TVDSB sent up an update on their remote learning program, saying all elementary students will start Wednesday and all secondary students on Thursday.
The school board said it is working to accommodate additional students switching to remote learning and hiring more teachers.