One of the sentiments included in the 2022 annual report of the State of the Nation: K-12 e-Learning in Canada was that K-12 online learning has become more political in Canada than it had ever been. Part of this reality is due to the pandemic, and the notion that the provision of remote learning was somehow seen as surrendering to the dangers of COVID-19 (which some politicians and policymakers would have us believe just isn’t that bad anyway). The other part of this reality focuses largely on Ontario, and the actions by the Ford Government over the past four years with respect to announcements and – eventual – implementation of a e-learning graduation requirement and a more centralized e-learning system.
Unfortunately, this politicization continues as boards begin to make decisions about whether to even provide online learning opportunities for their students – as evidenced by these articles.
Several Ontario school boards are planning to continue offering virtual learning next year, forging ahead before provincial direction is set, and saying it’s now more about a different mode of learning rather than a pandemic response.
The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, Toronto Catholic District School Board and Toronto District School Board are all set to continue remote learning in 2023-24.
The Durham, Peel and Lambton Kent district school boards plan to offer virtual learning again, subject to enrolment. They are surveying families on their preferences for the upcoming year to find out if there will be enough interest in remote offerings.
With no official word from the government as to whether it will continue funding virtual learning for Ontario students, Niagara’s English and French-speaking school remain in a holding pattern, awaiting provincial direction before setting its plans for the next school year.
District School Board of Niagara and Niagara Catholic District School Board have both seen dwindling virtual enrolment numbers over the last three pandemic years in elementary and secondary school.
For the public board, about 110 students are currently enrolled in online learning — less than 1 per cent of its 28,000 elementary student body. Last year, that number was about 600, and the first year of the pandemic, 2020-21, it was about 6,000.
In addition to the politicization of K-12 online learning, these are also examples of this notion that school boards need to make decisions about whether to offer their own local online programs in January, February, and March – largely because they turn around and ask parents and students to decide whether they will be enrolling in any online courses for Fall 2023 (some four to six months before the school year begins (as evidenced in an earlier item we wrote – see Virtual Learning 2022-23).