Parents, students and educators talked the talk and chalked the walk at downtown Newmarket to get school boards to stop plans for hybrid education.
The advocacy group York Communities for Public Education hosted ChalkTalk at the Riverwalk” Saturday, July 24, covering the sidewalk with messages against having educators teach online and in-person simultaneously. York Region District School Board and York Catholic District School Board both plan to implement the hybrid model in the fall.
Organization co-chair Riya Bhatla said she was excited by the turnout and hopes it can make a difference.
“It is a very inequitable model. It results in split attention, it results in a lack of mental health resources,” Bhatla said. “Hopefully, we can make some noise so we can have some concrete change.”
The model sees the same instructors teach children who opt for remote learning and in-person at the same time. York Region District School Board is planning to implement the model in 2021-22, after keeping remote learning classes separate last year. York Catholic School Board ran the model last year and though it is scrapping it for elementary schools, it is currently planning to maintain it at the secondary level.
“We have heard from families that their priorities include students being connected to their home school, the ability to switch more readily when required between remote learning to in-person learning, and access to continuity of remote learning as needed,” York Region District School board director of education Louise Sirisko said in May. “Through the hybrid model, families will continue to have the ability to opt for in-person or remote learning, and placement for all students will be in their home school.”
Grade 10 York Catholic District School Board student Milena, who asked her last name to be withheld, said she does not want to return to a hybrid system.
“It’s a really detrimental model. It’s not beneficial to any of the students. There's no connection with the teachers, and it’s really difficult to sustain a learning environment,” she said. “Hybrid hurts kids, and we need to get rid of it.”
Grade 8 York Region District School Board student Grace Lodoen said she is concerned by the difficulty it would put on her mother, a teacher.
“I can’t even imagine how hard it would be for the teachers and the students to teach kids online and in person at the same time,” Lodoen said. “The teacher can’t move around and talk, they just have to sit around in one place, and that’s not what teaching is.”
Bhatla said the province needs to provide more funding so schools can avoid this outcome.
She said the organization plans to continue the campaign on social media and chalk talk events in other cities.
“The issue is that a lot of students, parents, education workers that are directly impacted by these issues are not being consulted,” Bhatla said. “Our hope is this awareness, this push, social media, will get them to actually listen.
“This campaign is going to keep going,” she added. “We won’t take no for an answer.”