In March 2020, the Ontario provincial government began announcing strict COVID-19 measures to reduce social contact. One of those measures was closing all schools and switching to virtual, remote learning.
For some, this switch drastically affected how young people absorbed information and experienced school.
Julie French, a mother from Toronto, is frustrated with many aspects of the changes that students face. She noticed that student-teacher engagement dwindled during in-school closures.
“I think the teachers were getting discouraged because they had to teach 30 black boxes rather than 30 living, breathing kids,” she says. “That’s if the camera is even on; many kids had their cameras off.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic is continually changing, frequent switches from online to in-person might become the new reality.
Not only that, but now that there is a system in place for online schooling, parents and students may wonder if it will always be something that schools can revert to. It’s possible schools may switch online during other closure days, like when there are snow days, electricity and heating problems or pipe burstings.
With the introduction of online learning, is it possible that these days would be a thing of the past as there is now an option to log in from home?
Fiona Varty, a grade 12 student in Toronto, hopes this doesn’t occur.
“Snow days and long weekends are important pauses in school life,” she says. “Traditional days off—in both an online or in-person model—are a break for both students and teachers.”
French agrees with Varty and notes how rare these days are in Toronto, making it seem pointless to switch to online for these scarce occurrences.
“In Toronto, I think I can count on one hand how many snow days we’ve had,” she says. “Snow days are magical, and all you’re going to have are angry kids who are going to resent you for making them go to school online.”
Both Varty and French agree that online schooling should not replace periodical days off that are unrelated to the pandemic.
“I think that online schooling is an acceptable way to accommodate long-distance learners or the pandemic,” Varty says. “It is possible to use this method to replace traditional days off but I don’t believe that it is necessary at all.”
Some administrations have also considered the issue.
“We were told if there’s a snow day, classes are cancelled no matter what,” French says.
Several factors also come into play when considering if switching to remote learning is acceptable during a day like a snow day, making it seem unlikely for the future. For example, some teachers go to school to conduct remote learning and don’t do it from home. In the case of a snowstorm, they may not be able to get to the school to teach the class online.
Varty believes that online schooling can teach valuable skills; however, it can get old quickly.
“I found online learning to be an individual driven and self-motivated learning experience,” she says.
She believes this isn’t enough and students deserve more during their school experience, especially during critical years like grades 11 and 12.
“I suffered from the lack of help and support from my classmates. In class, it is very easy to ask someone for help or collaborate with notes, study together or ask questions,” she says.
French saw the same downsides with her own daughters.
“They learned to get by rather than do their best,” she says.
While some young people may be ready to say goodbye to online school altogether, the constantly changing and evolving COVID-19 pandemic could very well lead to another spell of virtual classes this coming September.
About the author
Brittany is a reporter for Youth Mind. When she isn’t working hard to become a full-time writer, she can be found making a dinner reservation, rewatching her favourite movies, or reading about True Crime.