“The provincial government plans to move forward with online learning for the next calendar year,” stated Chairman Todd Lalonde, during the May 4 meeting of the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario. “The concern for myself, the Ontario Catholic School Trustees Association (OCSTA), and many other school boards across the province, is that distance learning was brought in to support the continuation of learning during COVID-19, and to provide learning opportunities for students under these special circumstances.”
The worry for the CDSBEO and other school boards is that online learning may end up replacing in-school learning as the basis of Ontario’s education system instead of being a supplement and an aid during emergency situations like the pandemic.. The OCSTA has raised the issue with the education ministry.
“Overall, long-term implementation of distance learning will mean that education services will suffer,” stated Lalonde. “Online learning may create significant disadvantages for various marginalized groups, including rural students without access to broadband networks, those without access to (e-learning) devices, students who require special education services, as well as the complex considerations for small rural schools and remote communities.”
Lalonde also noted that schools are not just places where students go to learn, they are also places where students learn to socialize, make friends, become involved activities outside of the classroom setting.
“Social inequities are a major concern,” stated Lalonde. “This (e-learning) plan was put in place for COVID, and we have been asked to take a position. We believe that the best education is an education in-person.”
CDSBEO Vice-Chair Sue Wilson expressed concern that the mental and social health of students will suffer from too great a reliance on an online learning setup.
“The amount of screen time that is being imposed on students is unacceptable,” Wilson stated, “and I am not in support of long-term online learning. I think its implementation would be a great disservice to our children and their future.”
Trustee Karen McAllister noted that has proven an important aid to help students continue their education during the pandemic. But, she added, it cannot replace a classroom setup with a teacher to provide individual help to a student when needed.
“I have always felt that students need a choice in some circumstances,” McAllister stated, “such as secondary course selection. However, they should be monitored and supported closely by qualified teachers, preferably within the school environment.”
The CDSBEO board voted to send a letter, listing its concerns, to Premier Doug Ford, the education ministry, and all MPPs.