Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) is working through the hurdles of Learning@Home but its polling indicates most families are satisfied by its efforts so far.
Director of Education Larry Hope reported to the school board about the program April 28. Boards across the province have rolled out home learning with schools closed until at least May 31 by provincial order due to COVID-19.
Hope said in a board-wide survey of families with 3,200 respondents, 68 per cent expressed they were satisfied or very satisfied with online programs and tools. Meanwhile, 80 per cent of respondents expressed satisfaction with schools’ communication and 65 per cent expressed satisfaction with the quantity of schoolwork, Hope said.
“Particularly proud of our staff for the incredible work they’ve done to bring this to life,” Hope said. “Doesn’t mean we’re done; it just means we have some things to continue to build on and hopefully do even better on in the coming days and weeks.”
Hope said although they have received positive feedback, there are concerns. He said there is pushback on work quantity, with some families saying students are finishing too quickly and others struggling to get it done on time. Learning@Home includes reduced schoolwork hours, with Grades K-6 at five hours per week, Grades 7-8 at 10 hours per week, and Grades 9-12 at three hours per credit per week.
“We know there are students who will get the work and have it in 10-15 minutes and other students who require an hour or two,” Hope said. “We’ve asked our educators to be as mindful of that continuum as they possibly can be.”
Another point of issue is grading, Hope said. The province has mandated students’ grades cannot go below where they were March 13, when schools closed, though grades can still improve.
“We know that has caused some anxiety for some of our staff. It’s certainly caused some uncertainty in our communities,” Hope said. “The simple reality is when we’re given a directive like this, we accept the directive because it is our responsibility.”
Hope reported a common point of feedback is high stress and anxiety levels for students and their families. He said TLDSB has launched a series of video supports and is highlighting mental health supports in the area.
Bracebridge trustee Stephen Binstock asked about what guidance counsellors are doing and Hope responded they are reaching out to students.
“Our single greatest challenge is that’s not happening in person, and that is a problem, there’s no two ways about that. But they’re doing everything they can,” Hope said.
Haliburton trustee Gary Brohman expressed his appreciation for staff and sympathy for parents dealing with high workloads, particularly single parents.
“Let’s just be really careful on workload,” Brohman said. “Kids are going to school next September and they’ll catch up regardless. They’re the most resilient group of people in our society.”