Bluewater school trustees concerned with provincial plans for remote learning

Bluewater District School Board

Bluewater District School Board trustees are expressing concerns over a possible move by the provincial government to change how eLearning is delivered to students in Ontario with plans to shift to a permanent framework for remote learning.

A media release issued Tuesday said there are reports that, if implemented, the delivery of eLearning courses would shift from the current localized approach to a centralized model coordinated through TVO/TFO. The release references private documents suggesting the proposal is part of a plan by the province to introduce legislation this spring to make remote learning a permanent part of Ontario’s education system.

In a letter to Minister of Education Stephen Lecce, trustees requested that public conversations related to the proposed plan involve consultation with school boards and education stakeholders in Ontario.

The release states, “Bluewater District School Board is a member of the Ontario eLearning Consortium (OeLC), which includes 33 school boards from the public and Catholic systems. The OeLC has provided an effective, efficient, and low-cost seat-sharing mechanism for boards to offer eLearning courses to their students, while supplementing course offerings from partner boards. Local educators are responsible for online class content, which is differentiated according to the identified needs of their students. Opportunities also exist for students from other parts of the province to register to attend local classes.”

The trustees believe the government’s proposed plan could mark the end of the current consortia-based collaborative approach among school boards by shifting the development, control, and delivery of eLearning courses to TVO/TFO for students to access centrally. Trustees are concerned that the plan could threaten the viability and diversity of course offerings in rural and remote schools. Questions around access to reliable internet for families must be considered within any provincial plan to ensure equity. Additional concerns include reduced staff support for in-school learning, unnecessary duplication and additional expenses, and the ability of school boards to have direct and local influence over online programming.

“We are still gathering evidence from this past year on the full impact of online learning, and believe it is premature for the provincial government to be implementing a permanent framework without adequate transparent consultation with education stakeholders. We want to work with our provincial and education partners to ensure any plan meets the local needs of students, while continuing to honour the firsthand expertise and leadership of school boards,” says Bluewater District School Board Chair Jane Thomson.