School boards are seeing greater numbers of students enrolled in summer school this year. Wendy-Ann Clarke

Summer school enrolment surges

By 
  • July 19, 2020

In a summer deeply impacted by global pandemic, virtual summer school has proven popular for students looking to maximize their time during normal vacation months.

School boards in Ontario have seen greater numbers than usual enrol in summer courses as activities for youth remain somewhat restricted across the province.

Patrick J. Daly, president of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association, has seen a significant uptick in high school and adult student enrolment in online credit courses.

“In previous years, students would have had a lot of other things to do during the summer,” said Daly, who reports an increase from 1,900 to 3,300 summer students in the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic board, where he is chair. “Whether it was work, sports or something else, in many cases they are not able to this summer, so I assume that has played a part in the increase.”

Daly also reports a large increase in non-credit programming such as international language courses and a program called Passport to Grade 9 which assists Grade 8 students in preparing for secondary school. With just over 1,500 students enrolled in those programs, Daly says it’s a sign students want to stay occupied and ensure they are prepared for when school resumes.

To accommodate student demand for summer credit courses in the Toronto Catholic District School Board, existing credit programming has been expanded through remote teacher-led learning, online learning and correspondence/self-study. Credit recovery courses for secondary students and Reach Ahead opportunities for students in Grade 8 to earn high school credits are also being offered.

Though there is no replacement for in-person classroom learning, boards are helping ensure students and teachers establish a connection through virtual platforms.

“Students and teachers engaging in summer school programming have the ability to connect through board-approved platforms including Google Classroom and Brightspace (D2L) for distance learning, with an option for teachers to consider using Google Meet for video conferencing,” said Shazia Vlahos, chief of communications and government relations for the TCDSB. “Teachers also have the freedom to use other board-approved platforms for delivery of curriculum and connecting with students.” 

“As far as looking at ways to engage and personally connect with students virtually, it would vary, from teacher to teacher, in terms of their own professional judgment. Educators are using a variety of approaches depending on the student’s needs,” said Daly.

Beyond the summer, the jury is still out on how school will look in September in light of the ever-changing global crisis, but boards are doing what they can to prepare for and ensure the safety of students. The Ministry of Education instructed boards to prepare for three possible scenarios: a return to in-class learning with safety measures in place, a combination of online and in-class learning or the continuation of virtual education.

“I’ve spoken with representatives from many Catholic boards and staff and trustees are working very hard to plan on all three scenarios that the Ministry of Education and the government outlined in their guidelines,” said Daly. “The partial in school and online is the one that takes the greatest amount of planning. I know staff are working to develop plans that best meet the needs of students.

“There is still uncertainty however, because we won’t know until later in the summer which scenario will actually be implemented.”

In recognition of student mental health and well-being during the crisis, the province has provided an additional $10 million to hire mental health workers. Daly says this investment has been significant in scope and necessary during this challenging time.

“The government was very supportive in providing the school boards additional mental health funding. As well, we have used some of our own funds to increase the social work complement over the summer,” said Daly. “We have child and youth workers and other resources supporting students.”

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