NORTH BAY -- This year virtual learning has sparked a lot of interest with many students and families more comfortable learning from an online platform, however, in North Bay it seems as if most students have decided to go back to the classrooms instead. 

Although the numbers are constantly changing and with school only being back in session for a few days, there seems to be a trend in the city. 

"There are approximately 18 per cent of our families and students who have elected to receive their instruction virtually at our secondary school," said Paula Mann, the superintendent of education for Nipissing-Parry Sound Catholic District School Board. "Approximately 14 per cent of our students and families at the elementary level are elected to receive their instruction virtually at this time."

This seems to be the same trend at the Near North District School Board, which released its current numbers on Tuesday evening following a board meeting. Near North said that 6,004 students in grades K-to-8 are back in the classroom with only 670 choosing the learn from home option. At the secondary level, 273 students are enrolled in virtually learning compared to 2,908 that are back in person. 

Meanwhile, at the Catholic French Board, Monique Menard, the director of education for Conseil Scolaire Catholique Franco-Nord, said that things are already changing. 

"The most frequent change or the most frequent switch that we’re seeing now is from virtual to classroom. We did have about 180 students who had chosen virtual, and every day we have some going back to the class," Menard said. "We do have many parents talking about the staggered start, how they witnessed how schools are functioning now, having a bit more confidence, being a bit less anxious and coming back to their regular classroom settings."

In total, Menard says there is about 10 per cent of students at both the elementary and secondary levels that are currently enrolled in virtual learning. 

Even though in-person classes have been back for several days across the city, virtual learning is still taking some time to get up and running. 

"We are in the process of confirming the staffing for our virtual learning," said Mann. "It is a fluid process." 

This week, the Catholic board plans to reach out to families and students to try and get more on the same page, however, Mann says that staffing shouldn’t be a problem.

"We are prepared to ensure that all of our virtual classes are assigned with a virtual classroom teacher and looking at different ways that we can support accommodating that," she said.

Menard says staffing isn’t a current concern at the Conseil Scolaire Catholique Franco-Nord Board either.

"We are still recruiting, we are actively recruiting. We do have enough people because we did take our central pedagogical team and reassigned some to classroom teaching, virtual teaching, which has helped the situation a lot," said Menard. "We have a good program that’s just being started now. It’s not perfect, it’s getting better every day. This is new business for us, but we do have wonderful staff for both programs – virtual and classrooms."

At this point, students and families are still able to change their minds about how they will learn this school year.

At the Nipissing-Parry Sound Catholic District School Board, students have two opportunities to return to the classroom from a virtual setting – once right after Thanksgiving and the second after first term progress reports in November. 

"Our families have certainly been tremendously supportive of all the options that lay before them and we’re working with our families to ensure that we meet their needs as best as possible," said Mann. 

There is a bit more flexibility for students who change their mind at the French Catholic board, with officials just asking for 10 days notice to help make the accommodations work. 

"Since [switching] does affect our class size, it could impact some groups that would have to be divided or new classrooms created so we do necessitate some time to organize and make sure we can accommodate students as well as their learning needs," said Menard.

Numbers are expected to change as the school year continues.