April 26th, 2021
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In-Person Learning or Remote Learning?
Making an important choice for the 2021-2022 school year
The Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) is excited to welcome students and staff back to school in September 2021. The following information is important for families to review as you make the important decision about the mode of learning for your child(ren) for September. Please remember that this decision is for the entire year.
While the WRDSB believes in-person learning best supports our students, we also recognize that given unique circumstances, some families may want their child to learn remotely. In line with guidance from the Ministry of Education, the WRDSB is planning to offer a Remote Learning Program option in September. If, after reviewing this material, you wish to select the Remote Learning Program for your child(ren) for the next school year, you must complete the Remote Learning Request Form linked below by 4:00 PM on May 3rd.
If parents do not complete the Remote Learning Program Request Form, we will assume your child(ren) will attend school in-person and will assign the student(s) to their home or magnet program school for in-person learning. If you have questions, please reach out to your child’s school or refer to the Frequently Asked Questions for September 2021.
Learning, Well-Being and Mental Health
The WRDSB believes that student learning, mental health and well-being are best supported through in-person learning, and your feedback has reinforced this. We have heard from students, their families and staff about the importance of schools and the unique benefits of in-person learning including:
- Better meets the needs of young children, English language learners, students with Special Education needs, those students who struggle to work independently and vulnerable students
- Supports the mental health and well-being of students through caring relationships with peers and educators
- Fosters a sense of belonging, connection and community for students
Your feedback has told us that an emphasis on student mental health and well-being will be critical as we return to school next year. This past year has been extremely difficult for students and their families. Ensuring strong relationships, connections and belonging will be foundational to student learning. Our staff will prioritize the creation of safe, caring and inclusive classrooms and school communities where students feel seen, heard, and experience a strong sense of belonging.
Safe and Healthy Learning Environments in our Schools
The WRDSB remains committed to ensuring that all health and safety protocols will be in place and that our schools will continue to operate safely. Thanks to the support of our staff, students and families, there has been very little transmission of COVID-19 in our schools and our partnership with Region of Waterloo Public Health has allowed us to respond effectively. Over the course of the 2021-2022 school year, we hope to resume regular operations over time and as it is safe to do so, continuing to work closely with, and be guided by, the advice from local Public Health and the direction of the Ministry of Education.
Elementary In-Person Learning
In-person learning for students in Kindergarten to Grade 8 will be modelled on our current practice.
- Students will continue to be cohorted by class, and staff will rotate from class to class as the schedule demands.
- There will be a continued focus on reducing the number of educator contacts who are delivering instruction to each homeroom/cohort.
- Teachers will continue to be expected to maintain a virtual learning environment (such as Google Classroom or Brightspace) in order to support a transition to remote learning should the need arise, or where individual students are required to isolate for a limited period of time.
Secondary In-Person Learning
In-person learning will begin with the current safety measures in place. As we move through the school year, we hope to be able to incrementally resume more regular activities and operations, subject to health guidelines.
- In September, we plan to organize our secondary schools into semesters, but we will be prepared to pivot to quadmesters if necessary, depending on the Ministry of Education and Public Health direction.
- At this time, we expect that students will continue to be grouped into cohorts, A and B, with only one cohort attending in-person each day. The specific daily schedule cannot be confirmed at this time, but we have heard your concerns about one learning block per day. We hope to start the year and/or move to two classes a day and a lunch break between classes as soon as possible.
- Once the Ministry of Education and Public Health direction and guidance supports the removal of cohorting, daily attendance, and/or a return to a more regular schedule, we will look to implement those changes as quickly as possible.
- Teachers will continue to be expected to maintain a virtual learning environment (such as Google Classroom or Brightspace) as an effective teaching practice in order to support a transition to remote learning should the need arise, or where individual students are required to isolate for a limited period of time.
Remote Learning Program in September
The WRDSB will offer remote elementary and secondary programs for students who wish to learn virtually. The Remote Learning Programs will be modelled after the Distance Learning Programs offered this year. The change in name is simply to mirror the language being used by the Ministry of Education. With more students returning to in-person classes, our ability to offer a similar breadth of programs as was offered during the 2020-2021 school will be limited.
Elementary Remote Learning Program
WRDSB’s Elementary Remote Learning Program (ERLP) will offer our Full Day Kindergarten program, the English Program, and Core French. The WRDSB cannot guarantee French Immersion Programming for the ERLP given the limited availability of qualified French Immersion Teachers. Those families wanting to guarantee French Immersion Programming for their child(ren) should consider In-Person Learning. Similar to this year, our ERLP will include multi-grade combined classes. Students will receive 180 to 225 minutes of synchronous instruction per day including two 40 minute nutrition breaks.
Secondary Remote Learning Program
WRDSB’s Secondary Remote Learning Program (SRLP) will offer a limited selection of courses in each grade level in all program pathways: locally developed/essential, workplace preparation, applied, college preparation, academic, and university preparation. Secondary students have already completed course selections for next year and for those students and families opting to attend the SRLP, please note that every effort will be made to offer courses that students require for their chosen pathway to graduation.
Where students require specific courses not available through the SRLP, they will then have the option to select from a catalogue of E-learning courses. The SRLP will not include access to system programs, such as Specialist High Skills Majors (SHSM), Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), Integrated Arts, French Immersion/Extended French or other school specialized programs, which will only be available through in-person schools.
The SRLP will follow the same school calendar and daily schedule as our regular programming. At this time, we are planning to organize our secondary schools into semesters, but we will be prepared to pivot to quadmester if necessary. The specific daily schedule is not yet finalized and once finalized will run for the entire school year.
Special Education, Specialized Program Classes and IEPs
Our experience this year has shown that in-person learning is the best format to support students with special education needs, particularly those in congregated classes and alternative education programs. For this reason, in the 2021-2022 school year, congregated classes and alternative education programs will return in-person.
Students with special education needs will continue to be supported with the necessary accommodations, modifications, or alternative programs provided in their Individual Education Plan (IEP).
Support for Families as They Decide
It’s important for families to focus on what best supports your child’s learning, mental health and well-being – you know your child best. This is an important decision and we encourage you to discuss this matter with your child and your child’s teachers or support staff. Remember, this decision will be for the entire school year. We have provided a resource: Further information to support families as they make a decision. Again, if you have questions, please reach out to your child’s school or refer to the Frequently Asked Questions for September 2021.
How to Select the Remote Learning Program
Parents or caregivers wishing to have their child attend the WRDSB Remote Learning Program for the 2021-2022 school year must complete a Remote Learning Program Request Form for their child, or each of their children. We are asking that those parents and caregivers who wish to request that their child(ren) participate in the Remote Learning Program please complete the form by 4:00 pm on May 3, 2021. Please note that parents and caregivers will need to create an account to access this form.
Parents and caregivers are reminded that this decision is for the entire year. Do not complete the Remote Learning Program Request Form if you would like your child(ren) to attend school in-person. For those families who do not fill out the form, we will assign the student(s) to their home or magnet program school for in-person learning. We appreciate how it may be difficult for some families to make a decision at this time, however, we require time to ensure our schools and programs are resourced and staffed appropriately.
Thank you for your assistance in helping us prepare. We’re ready to welcome your children back to our safe, caring and inclusive classrooms in September 2021.