When Quebec shut down in- person learning in March 2020 as the first wave of COVID-19 hit, online learning was uncharted territory for most students and teachers, particularly at the primary level.
Now, as part of a pilot project approved by the Ministry of Education, Sutton School is offering Cycle Three primary school students the opportunity to spend part of the day learning online and part of the day learning independently, while participating in certain special activities in person.
Don Kerr is the principal of Sutton School. He explained that the pilot project began in September 2021 with seven students from grades 1-6. “We started this project last September because some families were worried about going back to an in-person school environment for various reasons,” he said. “We applied to the ministry of education and they just let us run with it.”
This year, the project will be limited to students in grades 5 and 6, who tend to be more comfortable with technology and with learning on their own than their younger counterparts. “Students will study their three core subjects – English, French and math – for three hours a day with their teacher and the rest of their classmates,” said Kerr. “The other courses would be done [online] asynchronously. It offers a little more freedom to the families, because the students can do their work at a time that works for them, as long as they respect due dates.” Students would be invited on field trips and to special events in person alongside their classmates. “Just because they’re online doesn’t mean they won’t belong,” Kerr said.
Three students are already registered in the hybrid program this year. Kerr hopes families whose children are “a bit more autonomous,” families whose children have anxiety or other concerns about being in a classroom setting and families who currently choose to homeschool or live nomadic lifestyles will consider registering their children. “We could eventually grow to have a whole class of virtual students from around the region if the numbers are there,” he said. In online classes, Kerr said, “students are learning a whole other aspect of communication and teamwork.”
“We try to allow students to develop digital citizenship skills, because that’s where society is heading, especially since the pandemic,” he said.
According to the Ministry of Education, 10 hybrid learning pilot projects (not including those aimed at student-athletes or students with specific health needs) are currently ongoing to make regular coursework more accessible to students who prefer to, or need to, study at home; most of those are in remote regions. Ministry spokesperson Bryan St-Louis said only English-eligible students in the Eastern Townships School Board catchment area are currently eligible for the Sutton School project. “It’s up to the school to make the project operational, take into account the specific needs of each participating student and actively document the project,” St-Louis added.
To learn more about the hybrid learning program for Grade 5 and 6 students at Sutton School or to register your child, contact Don Kerr directly at email@example.com.