A hybrid learning model is on its way for Catholic students across the District.

On Wednesday, the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board announced its plans to introduce a new hybrid model of learning for elementary students in all of its schools.

The model will blend face-to-face learners with virtual learners in the same class, under the direction of the homeschool classroom teacher.

Interim Director of Education Catherine McCullough says offering two different models – both in-class and online – has been an adjustment.

Now that the school year is almost two months in, she says they’ve learned what works well and what needs to be adjusted.

“The bottom line is that our current virtual school model is not sustainable,” McCullough said. “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.”

McCullough adds this model will make it easier for students to return to in-class learning.

To date, the Board has received close to 700 requests for students to switch from in-class to virtual or vice – a number that continues to rise.

In addition, the Board is unable to adequately staff the virtual school, which currently has more than 3,300 students.

Board Chair Joe Zerdin says this hybrid model will relieve these pressures.

“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,” Zerdin said. “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 this model is that it will reconnect our virtual learners with their schools and friends.”.

Zerdin says they believe this model is necessary in order to provide sustainability and stability to carry forward to the end of June and beyond.

The new model will also come into effect for high school students on November 12th.

Elementary students will begin it on November 23rd.

More information can be found on the board’s website.