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Catholic board introducing new hybrid learning model next month for elementary students

'Now that we are almost two months into our reality, we have learned what works well and what needs to be adjusted,' says interim director
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On Nov. 23, the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board will introduce a new hybrid model of learning for elementary students in all of its schools. This model will blend face-to-face learners with virtual learners in the same class, under the direction of the homeschool classroom teacher.

This hybrid model was also previously introduced for secondary schools in the Board and will begin on Nov. 12 for students in Grades 9 to 12.

Interim Director of Education Catherine McCullough explains, “Offering two different models of education, in-class and on-line, was new for everyone. Now that we are almost two months into our reality, we have learned what works well and what needs to be adjusted. The bottom line is that our current virtual school model is not sustainable. We have received more requests to switch from in-class to virtual or vice-versa than we anticipated and we simply cannot accommodate these changes within our current model. We have an obligation to meet the needs of our families who want to make changes to their mode of learning, but we must do so in a way that is feasible and sustainable in the long-term. This model will make it easier for students to return to in-class learning.”

“Our families and staff have been through a lot in the past six months and we continue to ask for compassion and patience as we work through the many challenges COVID-19 has thrown at us. To be honest, it has been difficult and frustrating at times and yet every day I witness our school communities rallying together to overcome obstacles. One of the things that I am optimistic about with this model is that it will reconnect our virtual learners with their schools and friends.” said Joe Zerdin, Board Chair.

“The fact is that we are going to be in this global pandemic for quite a bit longer and I really believe that the introduction of this hybrid model is what we must do in order to provide sustainability and stability to carry us forward to the end of June and beyond, if necessary.”

To date, the Board has received close to 700 requests for students to switch from in-class to virtual or vice versa for the Nov. 23 transition point (and this number continues to rise daily). In addition, the Board is unable to adequately staff the virtual school, which currently has more than 3,300 students. This hybrid model will relieve these pressures.

Regardless of whether or not the Board moves to the hybrid model, all of our schools will need to restructure classes to accommodate the transition in modes of learning. The introduction of the hybrid model will limit disruptions and ensure that classes don’t have to be restructured again in January and April, which are the two other previously established transition dates. 

For more information about the hybrid learning model, please see the frequently asked questions on our Board website.