By Chris Pickup

With the likelihood of schools being closed for the rest of the school year while the COVID-19 pandemic works its way through Ontario, more and more parents are wondering about online learning.

Brenda Blancher, Director of Education at the Grand Erie District School Board, yesterday announced an update on the continuation of learning, in anticipation of extension of school closures.

Grand Erie staff have been working hard this week to create a plan to ensure student learning continues after this initial two-week closure. What this plan looks like is still being developed with our partners at the Ministry of Education and other public school boards around the province.

“Switching to a completely different model for both teaching and learning takes time, but we are diligently finalizing those details. Once our work is complete, we will communicate it with you.

Our amazing teachers will play a vital role moving forward. And, I’m certain they are as eager as our students are to get started in the next week or two.”

The Board presently has a number of learning resources for students on its website at granderie.ca. These resources include the Ministry of Education’s Learn at Home platform as well as Literacy and Numeracy Guides developed for Grand Erie elementary and secondary students.

Meanwhile, as school boards are going full steam ahead with an e-learning component with the apparent support of their teachers, a leaked communique from the OSSTF union is telling teachers “OSSTF’s position is from the perspective of providing Members with the best protection possible.

“There are many unknowns at this time and we do not want Members doing something with the best of intentions that may cause difficulty with management in the future.”

In other words, don’t do something that will weaken the union’s position, wherein they have stated they are totally opposed to any e-learning.

It will be interesting to see how most teachers will react to their union’s caveat. Hopefully they will tell them to get lost.

If there’s one thing COVID-19 has taught us, it is that e-learning has to be one tool for the future, and that students will still need the individual guidance of a tutor. This wouldn’t even have been possible ten years ago.

It’s also necessary and healthy for our children to be able to interact with each other in person once this crisis is over, so our schools will still be there.

It’s up to our present teachers whether they want to be an enthusiastic part of the evolving future system, or allow their unions to tether them to a past that’s showing more cracks by the day.