Teachers unions are sounding the alarm bells in Ontario after the provincial government said it’s holding consultations that could lead to online learning becoming a permanent choice for families. The unions said the move would be extremely troubling.
Schools in Ontario have been closed to in-person learning for the past three weeks amid a surge of COVID-19 cases. Students have been taking part in remote learning from home. So far, there’s no timeline from the government about when students will be returning to the classrooms or even if that will happen before the current school year is up.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce said Ontario will provide the choice of virtual learning come September.
“Ontario stands alone in Canada with a strong online learning infrastructure," said Lecce. "We stepped up from the spring of 2020, higher standards and a more quality learning experience for your children."
The government also announced it is holding consultations about whether to make online learning a permanent choice once the pandemic ends.
But union leaders said the plan will undermine the publicly funded education system and will hurt students. The Elementary Teachers' Federation said if that plan goes ahead, students will go years without ever setting foot inside a school.
Sources said Ontario is working three possibilities: full-day synchronous virtual learning, online classes taught by teachers to high schools students and -- the most controversial -- a fully independent online option to be run by the government corporation TV Ontario. Critics said it would be an attempt to privatize online education in the province.