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Sudbury schools prepare for the new normal: online classes
SUDBURY -- School boards in Sudbury say staff is working hard to be as prepared as possible for virtual learning, which is expected to commence this week.
It's the new temporary normal as the school year, which was put on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic, resumes online. For the past week, local teachers have been preparing online lessons, getting familiar with technology and finding ways to make this type of learning as problem-free as possible.
Barb Blasutti, the Rainbow Teacher Local President for the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, says the teachers have a bit of anxiety.
"This is very much uncharted territory, and the thought of actually virtually presenting yourself into other people's homes is not normal," Blasutti said. "It's not the way we normally do business. Teaching is always done face-to-face in a classroom."
The Ministry of Education has set out guidelines for the amount of time students should be learning per week, giving school boards an idea of what to prepare. However, Michael Bellmore, the chair for the Sudbury Catholic District School Board says it will look different for everyone.
"It's not going to be a uniformed picture across our board."
Bellmore adds that teachers were given a chance to choose the online platform that works best for them, with options including applications like Zoom or Skype.
"Some teachers are offering some experiential learning," Bellmore said. "Some teachers there is a set curriculum. They're working right now, very diligently, at converting their curriculum to an online delivery message."
Although things might be different between classrooms, Bellmore said there will be some structure similar to classroom learning like the students are used to.
"There will be an opportunity for the students to access the information they need, complete the assignments, turn them in. There is going to be those kind of parameters that they would have in their classroom setting. We're just going to roll them out into this online electric format."
Officials say that technology is the biggest obstacle they are expecting to face as things get started on Monday.
Blasutti notes that not all students have the devices, Wi-Fi or data. She says there are also some teachers who live in more remote areas who will also face challenges when it comes to the internet.
"The second challenge, of course, being that many students have very unique learning needs," Blasutti added. "And distance learning may not be the best method of instruction for a lot of our students."
In some cases devices are being given to students and in others, where the internet isn't available, hard copies of lessons will be given out.
Bellmore said it's going to take a week or two to get settled into this new routine.
"This week I think is going to be a feeling of the waters. Making sure kids have access and families have access to technology."
For both school boards, flexibility was a key component as they prepared to move to online learning.
"In the primary and junior divisions, what I think is happening is something that we call asynchronous learning. So that will be teachers recording lessons and then posting them so that when parents have time they are able to than view those recordings at their leisure and their convenience," said Blasutti.
"Intermediate I think is going to have sort of a blend of synchronous and asynchronous learning. And that's going to be dependent on the student population and the teachers and what their capabilities are as well."
Officials say they are also working with individuals who have unique challenges to make sure that no student gets left behind.