When the 2021/22 school year begins in September, officials with the Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) are planning for in-class learning.

With that being said, officials with TLDSB are working to ensure that students and parents have the option to decide whether in-class learning suits them, or if virtual classrooms are the way to go.

“At this time our planning is going to be on the assumption that all students will be back in schools for in-person learning at the beginning of September,” TLDSB’s Director of Education Wes Hahn says in a letter to parents. “This means that all students will be enrolled for in-person at-school learning in their home school. At-home remote learning may be considered for September 2021 if school boards are directed by the Ministry of Education or if a concern related to the COVID-19 pandemic is raised by local public health. Due to the tremendous amount of work put in place, we are now able to quickly pivot when needed into remote learning. ”

It was announced Monday morning that students will not be returning to class next week once their delayed March Break ends, but Minister of Education Stephen Lecce has yet to give details on what schools in Ontario will look like in September.

District Manager of Corporate Communications for TLDSB Catherine Shedden says the school board has to begin planning now for the upcoming school year. She adds that they are open to changes if directed to do so by the Ministry of the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, adding officials with TLDSB are expecting changes to be made.

“As we plan for students to be in schools in September, there will continue to be stringent health measures in place,” Hahn adds. “The enhanced level of cleaning in schools will be in place if there continues to be concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is possible that staff and students will continue to wear masks.”

“Classroom cohorts may continue to be in place and secondary schools may continue using octomester blocks for students,” he continues. “All of these decisions will be made using advice and direction from the Ministry of Education and our ongoing collaboration with local public health. Our school communities will need to remain flexible as we plan for the new school year in a time of uncertainty.”

The school board’s Learning@Home program has gone “very well,” according to Shedden. “We have been working with families who chose the at-home option,” she says, pointing out that there are “so many different scenarios” that they’ve had to work through, but says they have been able to do so. “Each family is so different,” she adds. While most have been able to connect without any issues, she says the school board has had to provide devices to some families and through the Feeding All Four program have helped set families up with internet, or improve their existing connection.

Shedden admits the Learning@Home program isn’t “perfect” but officials have worked to improve it since it was implemented and she believes it’s been a success.

While that’s the case, she adds that some families have decided to return to in-class learning. “Primarily that’s because of their concern about the socializing aspect that their children are missing out on,” Shedden says. “But it could also be family or working circumstances.”