Optional courses in high school could be hit hard as 300 students opt to stay home: Union president

By Kirk Winter

'Optional courses like music and technological studies could be hit hard.'

The new secondary school union head says the nearly 300 students that are staying home this fall for online learning may end up affecting class choice for the majority who are going back.

Craig Horsley, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) District 15, was asked in a telephone interview with The Advocate to address what he thinks might be points of contention in the fall once schools reopen.

“COVID has impacted enrollment in brick-and-mortar schools,” Horsley says,” and with 297 students choosing online learning at the secondary level, that impacts the offerings that high schools can provide.”

“There will be fewer senior optional courses available in person, or if they run many of those courses will be running at a maximum number allowed,” Horsley says.

“Optional courses like music and technological studies could be hit hard. There is some limited government funding available for online learning but it is not enough and that shortage will take money away from brick and mortar schools.”

When asked about a return to extracurriculars, Horsley was cautious, suggesting that the priority should be getting all the students back in the building for a full semester and then see what happens.

“We would prefer a more gradual roll-out of the school year, with a focus on academics, and then we can think about things like extra-curriculars,” Horsley suggested.

Horsley wonders who the ministry consulted with about plans for September, because he says it was not education stakeholders. He said parents and many of his members are “really divided” about the return to school and acknowledged the importance of extracurricular activities for student mental health and well-being.

“I personally find it disheartening that the province is normalizing COVID and its threats and almost treating it like another kind of flu,” Horsley said, “as we see the dominance of the Delta variant and case numbers rising in the province, I would encourage everyone who can to get vaccinated.”

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