Saskatoon schools see significant drop in online students for 2nd pandemic school year

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WATCH: Numbers from both the Saskatoon public and Catholic school divisions show online learning numbers increased last year while this years' numbers have dropped significantly.  – Oct 22, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic brought uncertainty for students and teachers heading back into classrooms, meaning many students were learning from home.

Numbers from both the Saskatoon public and Catholic school divisions show online learning numbers increased last year while this year’s numbers have dropped significantly.

Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools (GSCS) saw a decrease in online learners from Kindergarten to Grade 8 from 1,600 to just over 200.

Read more: High vaccinations, low cases: When is it safe to lift COVID-19 restrictions?

However, there are still around 1,000 high school students either doing a full course load online or learning with a mix of online and in-person classes.

“I think lots of those families that were online chose to return back to face-to-face just knowing where the school safety plan is at and where the numbers are at in terms of vaccination rates for adults,” said Francois Rivard, GSCS superintendent.

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The Saskatoon Public School (SPS) division numbers show online learning has dropped for all age groups.

In Kindergarten to Grade 8, specifically, around 1,800 students have headed back into the classrooms.

Grades 9 to 12, meanwhile, went from almost 900 online students down to just over 500.

Read more: Coronavirus: A guide to back-to-school rules across Canada

“I think families’ comfort level has changed, we’ve adapted to their new reality. I think they have confidence in the school division which we’re very pleased of,” said Mitch Kachur, SPS Superintendent.

A homeschooling mother, Gillian Smith, says she gave her kids the option to go to in-person school, but they chose not to.

Her five kids were homeschooled before the pandemic, so there was not much of a shift for them when it came to learning.

Gillian said, “With the restrictions that are in place in our particular school division, our kids are like why would we do that?”

Read more: COVID-19: Saskatchewan students head back to school for 2nd time during pandemic

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She added that homeschooling gives her kids the opportunity to have more freedom and learn other important life skills like hard work.

Both divisions were expecting to see the increase of students in classrooms which left little to no room for staffing errors.

As well, they note there is no certainty what schools will look like next year with the ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic.

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