Transcript: Grading Ontario's Virtual Schools | Nov 12, 2020

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, checkered pink shirt, and purple tie.

A caption on screen reads "Grading Ontario's virtual schools."

Steve says TENS OF THOUSANDS OF FAMILIES OPTED TO SEND THEIR KIDS TO SCHOOL ONLINE THIS YEAR DUE TO COVID-19. AND, FOR THAT MATTER, IN PLENTY OF PLACES, A HYBRID OPTION OF ONLINE AND IN PERSON IS THE ONLY OPTION FOR THOSE IN HIGH SCHOOL. IT'S NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE HERE, ON THIS SCALE. HOW'S IT GOING? LET'S FIND OUT, AS WE FOLLOW OUR CUSTOM OF INTRODUCING OUR GUESTS FROM FURTHEST AWAY TO CLOSEST TO OUR STUDIO: SO WE START IN SUDBURY, ONTARIO: EMILY CARUSO PARNELL, PRINCIPAL OF ELEMENTARY REMOTE LEARNING FOR THE RAINBOW DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD...

Emily is in her forties, with blond hair in a short bob. She's wearing a gray blazer, a printed blouse and a silver pendant necklace.

Steve continues IN BURLINGTON, ONTARIO: ANDREA GRUSCYK, SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHER WITH THE PEEL DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD...

Andrea is in her thirties, with long straight brown hair. She's wearing a green sweater and a pendant necklace.

Steve continues AND IN THE PROVINCIAL CAPITAL: IN THE JANE-FINCH NEIGHBOURHOOD IN THE CITY'S NORTH WEST END: TESFAI MENGESHA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, OPERATIONS, AT SUCCESS BEYOND LIMITS...

Tesfai is in his thirties, with short-cropped black hair and a full beard. He's wearing a checkered shirt.

Steve continues IN NORTH YORK: RON FELSEN, SYSTEM SUPERINTENDENT FOR THE TORONTO DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD'S VIRTUAL SECONDARY SCHOOL...

Ron is in his forties, with short gray hair and a trimmed beard. He's wearing a gray suit, white short and black tie.

Steve continues AND IN THE WYCHWOOD NEIGHBOURHOOD OF MIDTOWN: ANNIE KIDDER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF PEOPLE FOR EDUCATION...

Annie is in her sixties, with long blond hair. She's wearing glasses, a black blazer, red scarf and silver hoop earrings.

Steve continues IT'S GREAT TO WELCOME EVERYBODY TO OUR PROGRAM TONIGHT, AND I ALSO SHOULD MENTION, SINCE WE'RE TALKING ABOUT ONLINE LEARNING HERE, THAT OF COURSE EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT TVO IS A PROVIDER OF ONLINE LEARNING ACROSS THE PROVINCE AND PARTNERS WITH THE GOVERNMENT OF ONTARIO ON ALL OF THIS, SO I PUT THAT OUT THERE IN THE INTERESTS OF FULL DISCLOSURE FOR EVERYBODY'S EDIFICATION. WE ARE JUST FINISHED THE FIRST QUADMESTER, WHICH IS A NEW WORD TO ME. I'VE HEARD OF SEMESTERS BUT NOW WE HAVE QUADMESTERS. LET'S GO AROUND THE HORN HERE, OUR VIRTUAL HORN, AND TALK ABOUT HOW YOU WOULD GRADE THE PROGRAM SO FAR. ANNIE, IN YOUR VIEW, HOW'S IT GOING?

The caption changes to "Annie Kidder. People for Education."

Annie says WELL, I'M NOT IN A SCHOOL SO I'M NOT SURE I'M THE BEST PERSON TO ASK. I THINK THAT SOME OF IT APPEARS TO BE GOING OKAY. A REPORT CAME OUT FROM OTTAWA YESTERDAY THAT RAISED A LOT OF CONCERNS ABOUT KIDS' WELL-BEING AND MENTAL HEALTH. AND I THINK MAYBE THE BIGGEST CONCERN IS ABOUT EQUITY. FOR KIDS WHO ARE ALREADY STRUGGLING, FAMILIES THAT ARE DEALING WITH A LOT OF CHALLENGES, IT SEEMS TO BE THAT IT IS MORE CHALLENGING TO SUPPORT LEARNING ONLINE, AND WE HAVE TO BE THINKING ABOUT THAT. RELYING ON FAMILIES FOREVER AND EVER IS NOT REALLY SUSTAINABLE AND DEFINITELY NOT EQUITABLE.

Steve says EMILY, WHAT ARE YOU SEEING IN SUDBURY?

The caption changes to "Emily Caruso Parnell. Rainbow District School Board."

Emily says I THINK THAT OVERALL I'D GIVE US A PASSING GRADE. I THINK THAT WE'VE DONE A GOOD JOB OF MEETING THESE CHALLENGES AND TRYING TO MEET THE NEEDS OF FAMILIES WHO ARE, AS ANNIE SAID, COMING FROM A VARIETY OF STARTING POINTS AS THEY BEGIN DOING THIS ONLINE LEARNING. SO I THINK I'D GIVE US A PASSING GRADE. WE'VE WORKED REALLY HARD ON OUR BOARD TO MAKE THIS AS SMOOTH A TRANSITION AS POSSIBLE, AND IT'S BEEN A REAL TEAM EFFORT, INVOLVING REALLY EVERYONE ON THE BOARD. SO I THINK WE'RE DOING PRETTY WELL, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

Steve says PRETTY WELL, PASSING GRADE. OKAY. GOOD. TESFAI, JUST BEFORE YOU TELL US HOW YOU'RE DOING, SUCCESS BEYOND LIMITS. JUST GIVE US THE 20-SECOND SPEECH ON WHAT YOU GUYS DO?

The caption changes to "Tesfai Mengesha. Success Beyond Limits."
Then, it changes again to "A year like no other."

Tesfai says WE'RE AN EDUCATION COMPANY BASED IN TORONTO. WE ARE BASED IN THE LOCAL HIGH SCHOOL AT WESTVIEW CENTENNIAL. IT'S OPEN FOR STUDENTS FROM 8 A.M. TO 6 P.M. AND THEN WE ALSO HAVE A SUMMER PROGRAM WHICH IS LOCATED AT YORK UNIVERSITY WHERE STUDENTS GET AN ADVANCED CREDIT BEFORE THEY GO TO HIGH SCHOOL.

Steve says HOW MUCH OF WHAT YOU'RE DOING IS IN PERSON AND HOW MUCH IS VIRTUAL?

Tesfai says WE HAVE BOTH. SO WE DO HAVE THE IN-PERSON PORTION. WE'VE WORKED VERY CLOSELY WITH THE ADMINISTRATIVE TEAM AT OUR LOCAL SCHOOL TO ENSURE THAT WE ARE ALIGNED WITH THE PUBLIC HEALTH GUIDELINES THAT ARE IN PLACE BUT ALSO THE PROTOCOLS AND PROCEDURES THAT THEY'VE PUT IN PLACE, AND LOOKING AT WAYS THAT WE CAN CONTINUE TO SUPPORT STUDENTS. BUT WE ALSO KNOW THAT WE CAN ONLY HAVE A LIMITED AMOUNT OF STUDENTS IN OUR SPACE SO WE HAVE OUR VIRTUAL SPACE THAT'S OPEN FOR STUDENTS TO ACCESS AT ANY POINT IN THE DAY. THEY CAN STILL GET THOSE SUPPORTS AS WELL.

Steve says HOW IS THE VIRTUAL GOING?

Tesfai says I MEAN, VIRTUAL HAS BEEN A CHALLENGE. I THINK FOR OUR COMMUNITY, AND FOR OTHER COMMUNITIES AS WELL. WE KNOW THAT ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY HAS BEEN A BARRIER FOR MANY STUDENTS AND THAT'S BEEN THE CASE SINCE THE LOCKDOWN, AND THAT ALSO CONTINUES FOR SOME STUDENTS NOW INTO THE SCHOOL YEAR. WE KNOW SOME STUDENTS HAVE NOT RECEIVED PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY UNTIL THE END OF THIS QUAD AND WE KNOW THAT'S STILL AN ONGOING CHALLENGE ON TOP OF BEING ABLE TO NAVIGATE THE ONLINE CLASSROOM. THERE ARE MANY CHALLENGES THAT YOUNG PEOPLE AND FAMILIES ARE STILL FACING.

Steve says ANDREA, HOW ARE YOU MANAGING IN PEEL WITH VIRTUAL LEARNING?

The caption changes to "Andrea Gruscyk. High School Teacher."

Andrea says WELL, I'VE HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF TEACHING IN THE ONLINE SCHOOL IN PEEL AND IT'S IMPORTANT TO NOTE IT'S IN THE SECONDARY PANEL SO THAT'S GOING TO BE SIGNIFICANTLY DIFFERENT THAN MY FRIENDS IN ELEMENTARY. I KNOW IT WAS CERTAINLY A ROCKY START IN PEEL AND FOR MANY BOARDS. BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY I'D PROBABLY PUT US AT A "B." WE'VE ADAPTED WELL. MANY OF THE EDUCATORS HAVE. THE STUDENTS HAVE... THEY ARE CERTAINLY LEARNING AND ENJOYING THE ENVIRONMENT, AND I WOULD RATE US A "B," A LEVEL 3 FOR SURE.

Steve says YOU SAID A ROCKY START. WHAT MADE IT ROCKY?

Andrea says WELL, I THINK WE HAD TO PIVOT QUICKLY, YOU KNOW, AND AS NUMBERS GREW IN TERMS OF THOSE THAT ARE WANTING TO LEARN ONLINE, WE HAD TO REIMAGINE THE EDUCATION SYSTEM AND IT'S NO LONGER BRICK AND MORTAR, BUT THEY HAD TO IN PEEL GO FROM MANY STUDENTS IN THE CLASSROOM TO MANY STUDENTS ONLINE, AND STARTING AN ENTIRE ONLINE SCHOOL. AND SO RATHER THAN TIMETABLING FOR, YOU KNOW, 1200 STUDENTS, 1500 STUDENTS, 80, 100 STAFF, YOU'RE IN THE NUMBERS FOR THE PEEL ONLINE SCHOOL AT 13,000, 15,000, YOU KNOW, INITIALLY STARTED AT 7,000. SO, YOU KNOW, THERE IS SIGNIFICANT CHANGE IN A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME AND, YOU KNOW, THIS... YEAH, THIS IS NEW LEARNING FOR EVERYONE.

Steve says MM-HMM. RON, HOW ABOUT YOU? HOW'S IT GOING?

The caption changes to "Ron Felsen. Toronto District School Board."

Ron says WELL, I AGREE. I THINK WE'VE... THREE MONTHS AGO, NOBODY WOULD HAVE THOUGHT THAT WE WOULD HAVE A VIRTUAL SCHOOL IN THE SECONDARY PANEL, AND NOW WE DO. AND WE SET UP THAT VIRTUAL SCHOOL IN A REALLY SHORT RECORD TIME. IF WE WERE TO BUILD A BRAND NEW SCHOOL, WE'D HAVE LOTS OF LEAD TIME FOR THAT. WE'D HAVE MONTHS AND MONTHS OF PLANNING AND BOARD STAFF INVOLVED. WE CONDENSED THAT WHOLE PIECE INTO ABOUT THREE AND A HALF WEEKS TO GET THE SCHOOL UP AND RUNNING. IN THE TORONTO DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD WE HAVE 18,000 SECONDARY STUDENTS IN OUR VIRTUAL SCHOOL, AND I WOULD SAY IT'S MORE THAN A PASSING GRADE AND MORE THAN A LEVEL 3 GRADE. I'D SAY WE'RE DOING PRETTY WELL. 18,000 KIDS IN CLASS WITH TEACHERS, WE'RE NEAR THE END OF OUR FIRST QUADMESTER. YES, THERE HAVE BEEN BUMPS, TO BE EXPECTED, I DON'T OVERALL I THINK WE'RE DOING A PRETTY GOOD JOB.

Steve says I DON'T THINK ANYBODY UNDERESTIMATED TRYING TO PUT THIS TOGETHER ON VERY, VERY SHORT NOTICE. HAVING SAID THAT, WHEN YOU DO HEAR FROM PARENTS, WHAT ARE THE THINGS THAT STILL CONCERN THEM?

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Ron says SO, AS TESFAI SAID, THERE IS SIGNIFICANT CONCERN AROUND DEVICES FOR STUDENTS. IN THE SPRING, WHEN WE WERE SHUT DOWN FOR REMOTE LEARNING, WE DISTRIBUTED OVER 60,000 DEVICES TO STUDENTS IN TORONTO, WHICH IS A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER. IN THE FALL WE HAD REQUESTS FOR ALMOST 10,000 DEVICES. WE ARE ABLE TO GIVE ALMOST 6,000 DEVICES OUT TO STUDENTS THIS PAST FALL, BUT, AGAIN, WE ARE SHORT A FEW THOUSAND THAT NEED TO GET TO STUDENTS AND THAT'S BEEN A CHALLENGE FOR US, BUT GENERALLY STUDENTS HAVE BEEN USING ALL SORTS OF DEVICES, WHETHER IT'S THEIR iPHONES OR iPADS OR CHROMEBOOKS WE'VE BEEN ABLE TO PULL FROM SCHOOLS AND STUDENTS HAVE BEEN ABLE TO ADOPT TO THE ONLINE FORMAT USING DEVICES AVAILABLE TO THEM.

Steve says ANNIE, LET ME FOLLOW UP ON YOUR FIRST ANSWER WHEN YOU TALKED ABOUT CONCERNS OVER ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY, FAIRNESS, EQUITY, AND SO ON AND SO FORTH. WHEN YOU HEAR... BECAUSE YOUR ORGANIZATION OBVIOUSLY... YOU'RE NOT IN ONE SCHOOL, YOU'RE FANNING OUT ALL OVER THE PLACE AND YOU'RE HEARING BACK FROM ALL OVER THE PLACE, HOW MUCH PROGRESS DO YOU THINK SCHOOL BOARDS HAVE BEEN ABLE TO MAKE IN TRYING TO LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD IN THAT REGARD?

The caption changes to "Annie Kidder, @Anniekidder."

Annie says WELL, YOU KNOW, ON THE ONE HAND, EXTRAORDINARY PROGRESS. I THINK YOU CAN HEAR IT FROM ALL THOSE TEACHERS AND PRINCIPALS, THE AMAZING WORK THAT'S HAPPENED VERY, VERY QUICKLY. SOMEBODY TALKED ABOUT PIVOTING. OUR RESEARCH DIRECTOR THINKS PEOPLE AREN'T PIVOTING RIGHT NOW, THEY'RE PIROUETTING, AND THERE'S A LOT OF THAT GOING ON IN AN AMAZING WAY. I THINK THAT FOR SCHOOL BOARDS, FOR THE PROVINCE, FOR INDIVIDUAL SCHOOLS, IT'S NOT JUST THE MACHINERY OF TECHNOLOGY, IT'S TRYING TO ENSURE THAT THERE ARE ENOUGH SUPPORTS THERE FOR ALL FAMILIES. FOR SOME FAMILIES THAT PARENTS ARE WORKING AT HOME, THEY CAN SUPPORT THEIR KIDS IN THEIR LEARNING. IT'S MUCH EASIER FOR SOME FAMILIES THAN FOR OTHERS. AND I THINK THAT THAT'S THE ONE AREA THAT WE DO NEED MORE WORK, THAT MAYBE WE NEED TO BE SUPPLYING PEOPLE LIKE ONLINE, CHILD AND YOUTH WORKERS OR SOCIAL WORKERS, GUIDANCE COUNSELLORS, MENTORS, GRADUATION COACHES. WE HAVE TO MAKE SURE THAT WE'RE NOT AMPLIFYING INEQUITY. THIS HAS BEEN RAISED AS A CONCERN ALL AROUND THE WORLD. YOU KNOW, THE U.N. RAISED THE WARNING ABOUT POTENTIAL GENERATIONAL CATASTROPHE, AND I'M NOT SAYING IT IS A CATASTROPHE IN ONTARIO, I THINK PEOPLE IN THE SYSTEM ARE REALLY DOING AN AMAZING JOB. BUT WE HAVE TO MAKE SURE, BY PROVIDING, YOU KNOW, GOOD POLICY FROM A PROVINCIAL LEVEL AND RESOURCES, THAT EVERY FAMILY HAS WHAT THEY NEED AND THAT'S NOT JUST A CHROMEBOOK OFTEN, IT'S OTHER KINDS OF SUPPORTS SO THAT KIDS ARE ABLE TO SUCCEED IN THIS, YOU KNOW, WEIRD WORLD WE'RE IN.

Steve says EMILY, CAN I GET YOU TO SPEAK TO THAT? WHAT PERCENTAGE OF YOUR STUDENTS HAVE THE RESOURCES THEY NEED IN ORDER TO SUCCEED IN THIS NEW VIRTUALLY EDUCATIONAL UNIVERSE WE'RE LIVING IN?

The caption changes to "Emily Caruso Parnell, @teachontheverge."

Emily says IN TERMS OF ACCESS TO DEVICES, I'M FAIRLY CERTAIN THAT THEY ALL HAVE ACCESS TO DEVICES NOW. MOST OF OUR DEVICES HAVE COME FROM HOME SCHOOLS AND HOME SCHOOLS HAVE BEEN REALLY EFFECTIVE AT MAKING SURE... WELL, HOME SCHOOLS KNOW THESE FAMILIES, RIGHT? SO THEY KNOW WHICH FAMILIES MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY AND THEY'VE BEEN REALLY PROACTIVE ABOUT MAKING SURE THAT FAMILIES HAVE ACCESS TO DEVICES. THEN BECAUSE OF WHERE WE ARE, WE ALSO HAVE AN ISSUE AROUND ACCESS TO THE INTERNET. SO CERTAINLY THERE ARE PLACES IN OUR CATCHMENT AREA THAT DON'T HAVE GREAT INTERNET ACCESS, PLACES ON MANITOULIN ISLAND OR JUST SOME VERY RURAL LOCATIONS. SO WE'VE DONE A COUPLE OF THINGS. WE'VE BEEN ABLE TO HOOK FAMILIES UP WITH HOT SPOTS SO THEY ARE GETTING A CELL PHONE WITH DATA ACCESS THAT THEY CAN USE TO ACCESS THE INTERNET IN THOSE PLACES, OR WE ALSO HAVE THE... WE WERE MANDATED THAT WE HAD TO HAVE ASYNCHRONOUS [indiscernible] SO WE HAVE STUDENTS GETTING PAPER PACKAGES SENT TO THEM AND COMMUNICATING VIA PHONE WITH THEIR TEACHER. WE'VE TRIED TO BRIDGE THOSE GAPS IN CREATIVE WAYS SO KIDS REMAIN CONNECTED TO A TEACHER AND A CLASSROOM, EVEN IF THEY CAN'T ALWAYS ACCESS THE INTERPRET OR THEIR INTERNET ACCESS IS INCONSISTENT.

Steve says ANDREA, WHAT'S IT LIKE IN TERMS OF ACCESS TO RESOURCES FOR ALL OF YOUR STUDENTS?

The caption changes to "Andrea Gruscyk, @a_tcher."

Andrea says WELL, YOU KNOW, I THINK IN PEEL, THEY DID A WONDERFUL JOB. TOWARDS THE END OF LAST YEAR, I THINK... I WAS ACTUALLY WORKING IN THE GUIDANCE DEPARTMENT, AND I SPENT A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF TIME TALKING TO STUDENTS, BEING AN IN-BETWEEN BETWEEN THE ADMINISTRATION, THE FAMILY, THE STUDENTS, AND TRYING TO GET A GOOD UNDERSTANDING OF WHO NEEDS WHAT AND I THINK PEEL DID A GREAT JOB OF TRYING TO GET TECHNOLOGY INTO THE STUDENTS' HANDS AND, SURE, WE CAN SAY A CHROME BOOK MIGHT BE INSUFFICIENT OR A PHONE MIGHT BE INSUFFICIENT, BUT I THINK WE GAVE IT A GOOD TRY, AND SOME STUDENTS DIDN'T HAVE ACCESS TO STABLE INTERNET. IS IT PERFECT? NO. ARE CHROMEBOOKS PERFECT? NO. IN TERMS OF THE STUDENTS GETTING ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY, I HAVE HAD NO ISSUES AND NOW BACK INTO THE ONLINE SCHOOL THIS YEAR, I HAVEN'T HAD ANY CONCERNS AS IT PERTAINS TO TECHNOLOGY.

Steve says LET ME DO A FOLLOW-UP WITH YOU, ANDREA, BECAUSE I REALLY NEED TO UNDERSTAND BETTER HOW YOU ACTUALLY TEACH WHEN YOU CAN'T SEE ANY OF YOUR STUDENTS, AND BY THAT I MEAN, WELL, YOU TELL ME HOW IT WORKS. WHEN YOU ARE PRESENTING TO THE CLASS, I'VE SEEN A WIDE RANGE OF EXPERIENCES, OR I'VE HEARD ABOUT A WIDE RANGE OF EXPERIENCES. A LOT OF STUDENTS, I'M TOLD, TURN THEIR CAMERAS OFF AND YOU CAN'T SEE THEM. HOW DO YOU TEACH UNDER THOSE CIRCUMSTANCES?

Andrea says GREAT QUESTION. SO MAYBE I'LL JUST WALK YOU THROUGH MY AVERAGE DAY. SO I DO SPEND A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF TIME ON GOOGLE MEETS, THAT'S BEEN MY CHOICE FOR THE LEARNING WITH THE STUDENTS. I WOULD SPEND A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF TIME LEARNING A LOT OF ONLINE ENGAGEMENT TOOLS, SUCH AS PEAR DECK, CAHOOTS, FLIP GRIDS AND ALL THE GOOGLE SLIDES. SO I THINK A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF TIME HAS BEEN LEARNING THAT AND THEN IMPLEMENTING THOSE ONLINE TOOLS AND, YOU KNOW, ANOTHER PORTION OF MY DAY WOULD BE CONNECTING WITH TEACHERS BOTH IN PEEL BUT I THINK REALLY ACROSS THE PROVINCE. WE HAVE SEEN COLLABORATION ON A SCALE THAT WE HAVE NEVER SEEN BEFORE, FROM MY UNDERSTANDING, AND TOGETHER I THINK A LOT OF THESE TEACHERS HAVE REALLY COME TOGETHER TO ENGAGE THESE KIDS AND USING DIFFERENT ONLINE TOOLS TO DO SO. AND THEN OF COURSE THERE'S EMAIL, THERE'S THE PREP AND MARKING, BUT WE'VE REALLY HAD TO LEARN A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF ONLINE TOOLS TO KEEP THESE KIDS ENGAGED RATHER THAN YOUR 75-MINUTE MONOLOGUE IN FRONT OF A GOOGLE MEET.

Steve says DO YOU TELL THEM TO KEEP THE CAMERAS ON OR WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THEY TURN THEM OFF?

Andrea says HONESTLY, I DIDN'T REALLY SPEND A LOT OF TIME ENCOURAGING THEM TO KEEP THEIR CAMERAS ON. I GOT TO KNOW THEIR VOICES. YOU KNOW, YOU ARE WITH THESE KIDS 75 MINUTES TWO TIMES A DAY, AND HONESTLY BY DAYS FOUR AND FIVE AND SIX, YOU DON'T NEED TO SEE THEIR NAME FLASH ON THE SCREEN TO KNOW EXACTLY WHO IS TALKING. YOU KNOW, I CERTAINLY WOULD SPEND TIME CONFERENCING WITH THESE KIDS AND THEY WOULD PUT THEIR CAMERAS ON AT THAT POINT IN TIME, BUT YOU CAN GET TO KNOW STUDENTS APART FROM SEEING THEIR FACE ON A SCREEN, YOU KNOW, AND WE TALK ABOUT TECHNOLOGY ISSUES AND STREAMING INTO HOMES, AND I THINK IF ALL THE STUDENTS HAD THEIR CAMERAS ON, IT'S GOING TO BE A TECHNOLOGY DISASTER. SO OFTEN JUST HAVING ME ON CAMERA AND HAVING THEM JUST AUDIO, IT REALLY... IT WORKED REALLY, REALLY WELL FOR ME AND I THINK I COULD CONFIDENTLY WALK AWAY AT THE END OF THIS QUAD AND SAY I KNOW MY STUDENTS. I HAVE CONFERENCES WITH EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM ONE ON ONE. WE'VE HAD A WONDERFUL TIME AND THEY'VE GOTTEN TO KNOW EACH OTHER. THEY COMMUNICATE WERE THEIR INSTAGRAM GROUP OR FACEBOOK CHATS, THEY'VE DONE A WONDERFUL JOB APART FROM ME, COLLABORATING WITH ONE ANOTHER, CONNECTING WITH EACH OTHER, THEY PLAY ONLINE GAMES AT LUNCH WITH ONE ANOTHER, AND I'VE HAD VERY FEW ISSUES AS IT PERTAINS TO NOT BEING ABLE TO SEE MY STUDENTS.

Steve says TESFAI, LET ME ASK YOU THE FOLLOW-UP QUESTION AND I'LL PUT A SKEPTICAL QUESTION ON MY SMILE RIGHT NOW. IF YOU CAN'T SEE THE STUDENTS, IF THEY TURN THEIR CAMERAS OFF, HOW DO YOU KNOW THEY'RE THERE, HOW DO YOU KNOW THEY'RE ENGAGED, HOW DO YOU KNOW THEY'RE LEARNING.

Tesfai says SOME OF THE STRATEGIES IS HOW DO WE CREATE AS MANY OPPORTUNITIES FOR STUDENTS OUTSIDE OF THE BIG CLASSROOM WHERE EVERYONE IS TO DEMONSTRATE THEIR LEARNING. IT MEANS WE WOULD USE BREAKOUT SESSIONS WHERE THERE ARE SMALLER GROUPS AND WE NOTICE THAT WHEN STUDENTS WERE IN SMALLER GROUPS, THEY WERE MUCH MORE WILLING TO COME ON CAMERA AND TO SPEAK AND FELT MORE COMFORTABLE. SO THINGS LIKE THAT. GIVING STUDENTS THE OPTION TO KIND OF SPEAK THROUGH THE CHAT FUNCTION, SINCE THEY'RE NOT ON CAMERA, ALLOWING THEM TO DEMONSTRATE THEIR KNOWLEDGE IN DIFFERENT WAYS AND USING ALL THE FEATURES THAT AN ONLINE PLATFORM HAS. JUST GOING BACK A BIT TO THE TECHNOLOGY PIECE, ONE OF THE CHALLENGES AS WELL THAT WE'VE NOTICED WITH TECHNOLOGY IS THAT SOME STUDENTS ARE GETTING LAPTOPS FOR THE FIRST TIME AND WE SAW MANY TIMES THAT STUDENTS... YOU KNOW, THEY'RE QUICK TO PICK UP TECH GENERALLY. BUT SOME STUDENTS ARE GETTING LAPTOPS FOR THE FIRST TIME AND THAT'S A CHALLENGE FOR THEM TO NAVIGATE AS WELL, AND THE CHALLENGE OF THE ONLINE PLATFORM IS SOMETHING THAT THEY'RE TRYING TO NAVIGATE. I THINK WE'VE TALKED A BIT ABOUT THE BARRIERS OF ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY AND ALSO WHEN THEY GET THEM, THERE'S ALSO A LEARNING CURVE. I JUST WANTED TO ADD THAT, THAT'S ALL.

Steve says LET ME FOLLOW UP ON THAT, TESFAI. THE STUDENTS USING LAPTOPS OR GETTING TECHNOLOGY FOR THE FIRST TIME, HOW OLD WOULD THEY BE?

The caption changes to "Tesfai Mengesha, @SuccessBL."

Tesfai says A RANGE. THEY COULD BE STUDENTS THAT ARE AS YOUNG AS PRIMARY GRADES OR IT COULD BE STUDENTS IN HIGH SCHOOL AS WELL. YOU KNOW, MANY FAMILIES CAN'T AFFORD TO PURCHASE A LAPTOP, BUT THERE ARE CERTAIN HOUSEHOLDS THAT, YOU KNOW, IN COMMUNITIES LIKE OURS, THAT HAVE NEVER HAD A LAPTOP OR NEVER USED ONE, RIGHT? AT THE BEGINNING OF THE PANDEMIC, WE KNEW A LOT OF STUDENTS WERE ENGAGING IN ONLINE LEARNING THROUGH THEIR CELL PHONES AND SOME OF THEIR CELL PHONES WOULD HAVE CRACKED SCREENS, SO IT WAS A CHALLENGE TO REALLY ENGAGE WITHIN THAT ENVIRONMENT, BUT NOW, AS YOU KNOW, SCHOOL BOARDS HAVE BEEN GETTING THOSE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY OUT TO MANY STUDENTS, AND ALSO COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS ARE SUPPORTING THAT. SOME STUDENTS ARE GETTING IT FOR THE FIRST TIME AND THERE ARE CHALLENGES AROUND THAT AS WELL.

Steve says ALL RIGHT. LET ME GET RON FIRST AND THEN ANNIE TO RESPOND TO THIS, AND THAT IS A REPORT FROM THE TORONTO DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD THAT SUGGESTS THAT LOWER INCOME AND RACIALIZED STUDENTS ARE DISPROPORTIONATELY REPRESENTED IN THE ONLINE LEARNING, WHEREAS WHITER, WEALTHIER STUDENTS ARE DISPROPORTIONATELY IN THE CLASSROOM. TORONTO DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD REPORT. CAN YOU TELL ME... AGAIN, RON FIRST... WHAT DO YOU THINK THE IMPLICATIONS OF THAT SITUATION ARE?

The caption changes to "Falling behind?"

Ron says WELL, IT'S TRUE, WE DO FIND THAT AS A WHOLE OUR WHITE STUDENTS ARE UNDERREPRESENTED IN THE VIRTUAL SCHOOL AND OUR SOUTH ASIAN AND EAST ASIAN STUDENTS ARE OVERREPRESENTED IN THE VIRTUAL SCHOOL RELATIVE TO OUR IN-PERSON BUILDINGS. IT IS A CHALLENGE FOR US. WE WANT TO MAKE SURE, AS WHAT ANDREA WAS SAYING, WE WANT TO MAKE SURE WE REALLY DEVELOP STRONG RELATIONSHIPS WITH THOSE STUDENTS AND THOSE FAMILIES. AND WORKING WITH OUR HOME SCHOOLS, WHERE THE STUDENTS COME FROM, WE WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT THOSE SCHOOLS STAY IN TOUCH WITH THOSE KIDS AND THAT THEY'RE PROVIDING SUPPORTS AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE SO IT'S NOT JUST ON THE VIRTUAL SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT, IN TORONTO, WE'VE STRUCTURED IT THE HOMESCHOOL SUPPORTS THAT STUDENT AS WELL. THE RELATIONSHIP PIECE IS KEY. WE HAVE... WE WANT TO MAKE SURE WE PROVIDE THE SUPPORTS NECESSARY FOR STUDENTS, SPECIAL EDUCATION NEEDS, ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS, AND WE WANT TO MAKE SURE THOSE STUDENTS ARE PROVIDED THE SAME OPPORTUNITIES THEY WOULD IN THEIR BRICKS AND MORTAR SCHOOL IN THE VIRTUAL SCHOOL.

Steve says ANNIE, WHAT WOULD YOU ADD TO THAT?

Annie says FOR ONE THING, LISTENING TO EVERYBODY, IT'S IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND HOW COOL THIS IS, HOW MUCH EVERYTHING HAS BEEN THOUGHT THROUGH, HOW CAREFUL EVERYBODY IS DOING. I DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT THE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE HOMESCHOOL. I THINK RON'S POINT ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS IS INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT, AND WHAT HAS TO HAPPEN NOW, BECAUSE THIS IS KIND OF, SADLY, THE NEW NORMAL, IS THAT WE HAVE TO MAKE SURE THAT THOSE RELATIONSHIPS ARE STRONG AND THE RELATIONSHIPS HAVE TO BE WITH FAMILIES AS WELL AS STUDENTS, AND I THINK I WOULD STILL ARGUE THAT PROBABLY THERE ARE MORE SUPPORTS NEEDED. PEOPLE HAVE ALREADY RAISED CONCERNS ABOUT TEACHERS, SUPPORT STAFF, PRINCIPALS IN PARTICULAR, BURNING OUT ALREADY AND IT'S ONLY NOVEMBER. SO HOW DO WE MAKE SURE THERE ARE OTHER KINDS OF SUPPORTS THERE SO IT'S NOT JUST UP TO PRINCIPALS AND THE HOME ROOM TEACHER BUT OTHER PEOPLE TO REACH OUT TO FAMILIES TO MAKE SURE THEY HAVE EVERYTHING THAT THEY NEED, NOT JUST THE TECHNOLOGY. BUT I AM... I'M SO IMPRESSED WITH WHAT EVERYBODY IS SAYING. SO IT'S REALLY EASY TO GO AND TO KIND OF, YOU KNOW, EVERYTHING'S BAD AND TO AWFULLIZE, AS IT'S BEEN CALLED. BUT WHAT WE'RE SEEING IS PEOPLE RISING TO THE OCCASION. I STILL DO THINK WE'RE MISSING A PROVINCIAL TASK FORCE. WE SHOULD HAVE HAD THAT ALL ALONG. IT IS DEFINITELY NOT TOO LATE. AND IT WOULD BE A PLACE TO COLLABORATIVELY PROBLEM-SOLVE AND MAKE SURE THERE'S KIND OF COHERENT POLICY.

Steve says CAN YOU FOLLOW UP ON THAT. WHAT EXACTLY DO YOU WANT THAT TASK FORCE TO DO AND WHO WOULD BE ON IT AND ALL THAT STUFF?

Annie says I THINK THAT THERE SHOULD HAVE BEEN A TASK FORCE, THERE STILL SHOULD BE ONE THAT HAS TEACHERS, SUPPORT STAFF, DEANS OF EDUCATION, BECAUSE FACULTIES OF EDUCATION ARE INVOLVED IN HERE, PRINCIPALS, DIRECTORS, PARENTS, STUDENTS... EVERYBODY... EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATORS, EDUCATIONAL ASSISTANTS, ALL THE PEOPLE THAT ARE INTERACTING WITH STUDENTS CURRENTLY, AND HAVE EXPERIENCE AND ARE ABLE TO NAME THE ISSUES BUT ALSO COLLABORATE ON SOLUTIONS. SOMEBODY BROUGHT UP COLLABORATION. IT'S INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT THAT TEACHERS AND SUPPORT STAFF ARE ABLE TO TALK TO EACH OTHER ABOUT WHAT'S WORKING, WHAT'S NOT WORKING, WHAT I HAVE LEARNED? BUT WE'RE GOING TO BE IN THIS SITUATION FOR MANY, MANY, MANY MONTHS AND RIGHT NOW I KNOW, YOU KNOW, THE PROVINCE HAS KIND OF ONE-OFF CONVERSATIONS WITH PEOPLE, BUT THAT, DEVELOPING THAT COHERENCE SO THAT WE'RE MAKING SURE EVERYBODY IS SUPPORTED AND THAT NOBODY IS FALLING THROUGH THE CRACKS, AND ALSO THAT WE'RE NOT ASKING TOO MUCH OF THE PEOPLE THAT ARE CURRENTLY IN THE SYSTEM. I THINK WITH HELP WITH THE OVERALL PLANNING. YOU KNOW, WE'VE HAD SOME KIND OF A TASK FORCE TO DEAL WITH THE HEALTH ISSUES. WE'VE HAD A LOT OF FOCUS ON THE ECONOMY. WE NEED TO HAVE EVERYBODY AT THE TABLE, INCLUDING PEOPLE FROM HEALTH, TO MAKE SURE THAT, YOU KNOW, WE'VE GOT A REALLY GREAT PLAN AND A REALLY WELL-RESOURCED PLAN FOR EDUCATION. THIS IS OUR NEXT GENERATION WE'RE TALKING ABOUT HERE. WE HAVE TO MAKE SURE THEY'RE OKAY.

Steve says EMILY, LET ME GET YOU TO PICK UP THE STORY INASMUCH AS, UNLIKE ANDREA, YOU'RE AT THE ELEMENTARY LEVEL, NOT THE SECONDARY LEVEL, AND I PRESUME AS A WELL... WELL, YOU TELL ME. I PRESUME YOU NEED MUCH MORE PARENTAL HANDS-ON TO MAKE THE VIRTUAL LEARNING EXPERIENCE WORK BETTER FOR ELEMENTARY-LEVEL STUDENTS THAT, SAY, SECONDARY STUDENTS WHO MIGHT BE SELF-STARTERS AND BE ABLE TO BE ON THEIR OWN AND NEED LESS PARENTAL INTERVENTION, IN ORDER TO MAKE IT ALL WORK? IS IT THE CASE, AND IF IT IS, ARE YOU GETTING THAT PARENTAL BACKSTOP?

Emily says DEFINITELY IN PRIMARY, SO KINDERGARTEN TO GRADE THREE, PARTICULARLY KINDERGARTEN TO GRADE 2. THEY NEED LOTS OF PARENTAL SUPPORT. THEY CERTAINLY NEED LESS NOW THAN THEY DID AT THE BEGINNING. I DO A GOOGLE RECESS WITH MY STUDENTS EVERY DAY AND MONDAY IS JK-SK, AND NOW THEY CAN CHANGE THINGS ABOUT THEIR SETTINGS AND THEY KNOW HOW TO DO ALL THAT. AT THE BEGINNING THEY DIDN'T KNOW HOW TO DO THOSE THINGS. KIDS ARE VERY RESILIENT AND PICK UP ON THESE THINGS. DEFINITELY WE ARE RELYING ON PARENTS TO SUPPORT AND SUPERVISE AND MAKE SURE THAT KIDS ARE ATTENDING AND THAT THEY DON'T HAVE FOUR OTHER TABS OPEN ON WHICH THEY'RE PLAYING VIDEO GAMES. YOU KNOW, THAT'S DEFINITELY A MORE ENHANCED ROLE FOR PARENTS THAN WOULD TYPICALLY BE IF KIDS WERE IN THE CLASSROOM FACE TO FACE. SO, YEAH, ABSOLUTELY, THERE'S A BIGGER ROLE FOR PARENTS, PARTICULARLY WITH YOUNGER CHILDREN.

Steve says IS IT HAPPENING? ARE THE PARENTS GETTING INVOLVED?

Emily says IN GENERAL, YEAH, ABSOLUTELY. WE HAVE GREAT PARENTAL SUPPORT. AND WE TRY TO BE AS CLEAR AS POSSIBLE WITH PARENTS AT THE BEGINNING ABOUT WHAT THIS WOULD DEMAND OF THEM, SO THAT THEY HAD A REALLY CLEAR PICTURE OF WHAT THIS WAS GOING TO LOOK LIKE, BECAUSE INITIALLY WE DIDN'T KNOW WHAT IT WAS GOING TO LOOK LIKE IN THE SUMMER, AND THEN ONCE WE DID KNOW, WE HAD TO SORT OF DEVELOP OUR OWN LOCAL PLAN TO MAKE THAT HAPPEN. SO WE TRIED TO BE QUITE UPFRONT WITH PARENTS ABOUT WHAT THIS WAS GOING TO DEMAND OF THEM. AND THEN WE'VE TRIED TO WORK WITH PARENTS WHO HAVE KIDS WHO MAYBE CAN'T STAY ONLINE QUITE AS LONG AND HOW WE CAN STRUCTURE THE DAY SO THAT THEY CAN BE THERE FOR THE KEY PIECES AND THEN THEY CAN DO SOME ASYNCHRONOUS WORK DURING OTHER TIMES WHEN THEY NEED TO TAKE A BREAK. WOULD HE WE'VE TRIED TO DEVELOP SOME FLEXIBILITY WITHIN THE MODEL TO ACCOMMODATE FOR KIDS WHO REQUIRE A CHANGE OF SETTING OR THEY NEED TO TAKE A BREAK FROM THE SCREEN OR THEY NEED TO GO FOR A WALK OR DO SOMETHING ASYNCHRONOUS FOR A WHILE.

Steve says EMILY, I WANT TO DO ONE MORE FOLLOW-UP WITH YOU AND I'M GOING TO TRY HARD NOT TO SOUND LIKE A DUMB SOUTHERN ONTARIAN WHEN I ASK THIS QUESTION. HERE WE GO. THERE'S BEEN A FEW THOUSAND CASES OF COVID-19 IN SCHOOLS ALL OVER ONTARIO AND FOR THE MOST PART, THE VAST, VAST, VAST MAJORITY ARE DOWN HERE IN THE SOUTH. LAST I CHECKED IN ALL OF THE GREATER SUDBURY AREA, YOU HAVE THREE CASES OF COVID-19, AND I'M NOT TALKING ABOUT IN SCHOOLS, I'M TALKING ABOUT IN BROADER SOCIETY. THREE CASES. SO WHY DOES ANYBODY NEED TO HAVE A VIRTUAL EDUCATION RIGHT NOW? IT SOUNDS PRETTY SAFE UP THERE. WHY ISN'T EVERYBODY IN THE CLASSROOM?

Emily says WELL, WE HAVE HAD SOME MORE CASES IN THE LAST WEEK. THE LAST WEEK'S BEEN PICKING UP IN TERMS OF CASES HERE. AND CERTAINLY WE HAD SOME PEOPLE... WE HAVE A TRANSITION DATE TOMORROW WHERE PEOPLE ARE GOING IN AND OUT OF VIRTUAL LEARNING AND OUR ENROLMENT IS GOING DOWN A LITTLE BIT, BUT NOT VERY MUCH. SO PEOPLE HAVE A VARIETY OF DIFFERENT REASONS WHY THEY'RE CHOOSING TO DO THIS. SO SOME PEOPLE ARE WORKING IN HEALTH CARE AND THEY JUST FEEL IT WOULD BE RISKY TO SEND THEIR KIDS TO SCHOOL AND HAVE THEIR KIDS POSSIBLY BRING THE VIRUS INTO A SCHOOL BECAUSE THEY'RE PICKING IT UP AT WORK AND THEY'RE CONCERNED ABOUT THAT. WE HAVE OTHER PEOPLE WHO HAVE PEOPLE IN THEIR HOMES WHO ARE IMMUNOCOMPROMISED OR PEOPLE THEY WOULD LIKE TO KEEP SEEING IN TERMS OF FAMILY MEMBERS IN NURSING HOMES. JUST A REALLY WIDE RANGE OF REASONS WHY PEOPLE ARE CHOOSING TO DO THIS. AND IT REALLY RUNS THE GAMUT OF WHAT WORKS BEST FOR THEIR FAMILY, IT WORKS BEST FOR THEIR SCHEDULE, FOR INSTANCE. YOU KNOW, THERE ARE LOTS OF ADVANTAGES IN TERMS OF A PARENTING POINT OF VIEW, RIGHT? KIDS GET UP. THEY HAVE A LEISURELY BREAKFAST. YOU DON'T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT GETTING THEM TO THE BUS IN TIME OR GETTING LUNCH READY. THERE ARE SIGNIFICANT ADVANTAGES FROM A PARENTING POINT OF VIEW THAT MAKES IT APPEALING AS A WAY TO REDUCE RISK.

Steve says I GET YOU THERE. THANK YOU FOR INDULGING ME ON THAT ONE. RON, LET ME GO BACK TO YOU TO THIS ONE AND ANDREA AFTERWARDS. STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES. STUDENTS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS. WHAT ARE YOU ABLE... PRESUMABLY YOU HAVE TO TAILOR THINGS A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENTLY TO DEAL WITH THAT GROUP OF PEOPLE. HOW ARE YOU HANDLING THAT?

The caption changes to "Ron Felsen, @RonFelsen."

Ron says SO IN THE VIRTUAL SCHOOL, WE DO HAVE A FULL RANGE OF SPECIAL EDUCATION PROGRAMMING. I'VE HAD THE PLEASURE OF VISITING ONE OF OUR CLASSES FOR DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITY AND THE TEACHER TOOK US ON A TOUR OF A WE FARM. IT WAS AN INCREDIBLE CLASS TO VISIT AND THE SUPPORT PROVIDED TO STUDENTS WITH ALL DIFFERENT EXCEPTIONALITIES. WE HAD AS I MENTIONED A PROGRAM FOR STUDENTS WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES BUT STUDENTS WITH AUTISM AND LEARNING DISABILITIES. WE HAVE THE RESOURCES, WE'RE WORKING WITH TEACHERS TO... THE WORD WAS... PIVOT WAS USED EARLIER, BECAUSE THE ACCOMMODATIONS THAT ARE PROVIDED IN A BRICKS AND MORTAR SCHOOL ARE DIFFERENT IN A VIRTUAL SETTING. SO DEVELOPING THOSE INDIVIDUAL EDUCATION PLANS FOR STUDENTS HAS BEEN A CHALLENGE, BUT OVERALL I THINK OUR STUDENTS ARE BENEFITING FROM THE VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENT AND LEARNING, JUST AS THEY WOULD BE IN A BRICKS AND MORTAR ENVIRONMENT.

Steve says WHEN I HEAR PEOPLE FROM THE EDUCATION SYSTEM SAY "IT'S A CHALLENGE," THAT'S USUALLY CODE FOR, WE'RE BARELY KEEPING UP. THIS IS A REAL PROBLEM. IS THAT THE CASE?

Ron says I THINK IF YOU HAD ASKED ME EARLY IN SEPTEMBER, HOW ARE WE GOING TO DO 5,000 INDIVIDUAL EDUCATION PLANS FOR 18,000 STUDENTS IN THE VIRTUAL SCHOOL, I MIGHT HAVE HAD A DIFFERENT ANSWER, BUT WE REALLY HAVE DONE A VERY GOOD PUSH. I HAVE AN AMAZING TEAM OF PRINCIPALS AND TEACHERS IN THE VIRTUAL SCHOOL, SECONDARY, THAT ARE WORKING AND DEVELOPING THOSE IDEAS, AND I THINK IT'S A VERY DIFFERENT CASE TODAY THAN IT WAS ABOUT FIVE WEEKS AGO, SIX WEEKS AGO.

Steve says OKAY. ANDREA, HOW ABOUT FOR YOU, LEARNING DISABLED STUDENTS, STUDENTS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS, HOW ARE YOU HANDLING ALL OF THAT?

Andrea says WELL YOU KNOW I'VE HAD THE OPPORTUNITY, I STARTED IN MY CAREER TEACHING IN SCHOOL IT'S BEEN ABOUT SIX YEARS IN SPECIAL EDUCATION SO AS A RESULT OF THAT EXPERIENCE I THINK IT'S BEEN OKAY IN THE ONLINE ENVIRONMENT AND I'VE REALLY GOTTEN TO KNOW... AT THE END OF THE DAY, YOU NEED TO KNOW YOUR STUDENTS, AND SO GETTING TO KNOW YOUR STUDENTS, ESPECIALLY AS IT PERTAINS TO SPECIAL EDUCATION, IS GOING TO SERVE THEM BEST. AND SO HAVING THE OPPORTUNITY TO, YEAH, HAVE A BACKGROUND IN SPECIAL EDUCATION HAS ENABLED ME TO TAKE WHAT IS GOOD FOR SOME AND IMPLEMENT THAT FOR EVERYONE IN MY CLASSROOM. SO WHETHER THAT'S STUDENTS THAT REQUIRE EXTRA TIME OR CHUNKING OR PROVIDING ORGANIZATIONAL TEMPLATES OR ONE-TO-ONE SUPPORT, RATHER THAN OFFERING THAT, YOU KNOW, ACCORDING TO THEIR IP FOR THREE STUDENTS, I'VE STRUCTURED MY ONLINE ENVIRONMENT, AND I KNOW MANY OF MY COLLEAGUES HAVE, IN SUCH A WAY THAT REALLY WE'RE ABLE TO DO WHAT'S GOOD FOR SOME... OR, YOU KNOW, WHAT'S MANDATED FOR SOME AND DO IT FOR ALL. BUT I THINK AT THE END OF THE DAY YOU REALLY NEED TO KNOW YOUR STUDENTS AND COLLABORATE WITH YOUR COLLEAGUES.

Steve says WELL, LET ME PUSH BACK ON THAT JUST A LITTLE BIT, BECAUSE I CAN IMAGINE, YOU BEING A TEACHER IN THE SECONDARY SYSTEM, IT'S DIFFICULT ENOUGH EVEN WHEN THINGS ARE NORMAL AND YOU'RE IN CLASS, TO DEAL WITH STUDENTS WHO HAVE LEARNING DISABILITIES OR MAY BE SOMEWHERE ON THE SPECTRUM OR ANY NUMBER OF DIFFERENT PROBLEMS YOU HAVE TO DEAL WITH IN THE COURSE OF YOUR DAY. I JUST HAVE TO BELIEVE THAT IT'S JUST EXPONENTIALLY MORE DIFFICULT TO REACH THESE STUDENTS WHEN YOU ONLY SEE THEM ONLINE. SO EVEN WITH ALL OF THE BACKGROUND THAT YOU BRING TO THIS CHALLENGE, TO USE RON'S FAVOURITE WORD, EVEN WITH ALL OF THAT BACKGROUND IN PLACE, I MEAN, IT FEELS AS IF INEVITABLY TOO MANY STUDENTS ARE GOING TO FALL THROUGH THE CRACKS HERE. IS THAT NOT FAIR TO SAY?

Andrea says I DEFINITELY WOULD AGREE WITH YOU. I THINK... I'VE BEEN IN THE UNIQUE SITUATION THAT I DO HAVE THE EXPERIENCE, BUT, YEAH, I CAN'T HELP BUT THINK... I THINK IT'S ALSO IMPORTANT TO DIFFERENTIATE. THERE ARE STUDENTS THAT HAVE LEARNING DISABILITIES AND THOSE ARE THE ONES THAT ARE IN MY CLASSROOM. BUT, AGAIN, THERE ARE STUDENTS THAT ARE GOING TO HAVE LEARNING IMPAIRMENTS, INTELLECTUAL DISABILITIES, DEVELOPMENTAL DELAYS AND THAT'S GOING TO BE VERY DIFFERENT. I THINK IT WOULD BE IGNORANT FOR ME TO SIT HERE AND SAY THOSE STUDENTS AREN'T GOING TO FALL THROUGH THE CRACKS. A LOT OF STUDENTS, INCLUDING THOSE WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES, DO REQUIRE A LOT OF ONE-TO-ONE SUPPORT AND THEIR INDIVIDUAL EDUCATION PLANS DEMAND SUCH, AND I THINK... I DO THINK THOSE STUDENTS, YOU KNOW, IS IT BETTER THAN MAYBE IT WAS IN SEPTEMBER OR, YOU KNOW, LAST SCHOOL YEAR? I THINK WE ARE DEFINITELY MAKING PROGRESS. BUT I THINK IT'S UNFAIR TO SAY THAT WE ARE SERVING THEM WITH EXCELLENCE AT THIS POINT IN TIME. WE'RE GETTING THERE. BUT I THINK WITH EXCELLENCE, I THINK THAT'S HARD FOR, YOU KNOW, WHEN WE HAVE THOUSANDS OF STUDENTS AND TEACHERS THAT HAVE LIMITED EXPERIENCE AND, YEAH, ARE REALLY DOING THIS FOR THE FIRST TIME.

Steve says RON, YOU WANT TO COME BACK ON THAT? ADMITTEDLY, ANDREA IS WITH PEEL, YOU'RE WITH TORONTO, SO IT'S NOT THE SAME BOARD, BUT SHE PROBABLY SPEAKS FOR MANY THERE.

Ron says I THINK AS ANDREA WAS TALKING, SOME ACCOMMODATIONS ARE EASIER TO PROVIDE IN THE VIRTUAL SETTING, SORRY. FOR EXAMPLE, IN A REGULAR CLASSROOM SETTING, PROVIDING NOTES TO STUDENTS IS AN ACCOMMODATION. WELL, A LOT OF THE MATERIAL... ALL OF THE MATERIAL IS PROVIDED DIGITALLY TO STUDENTS. SO IT REALLY IS LOOKING AT THINGS DIFFERENTLY. I AGREE WITH THE RELATIONSHIP PIECE. THAT IS REALLY IMPORTANT AND I STRESSED THAT EARLIER, AND SO THE RELATIONSHIP PIECE IS KEY. BUT I THINK THE TEACHERS HAVE REALLY FOUND INNOVATIVE WAYS OF PROVIDING SUPPORT TO STUDENTS WITH SPECIAL EDUCATION NEEDS AGAIN THROUGH ALL THE DIFFERENT EXCEPTIONALITY GROUPS, NOT JUST STUDENTS WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES. THE ACCOMMODATIONS... I JUST THINK OF THINGS LIKE CHUNKING AND QUEUES AND OTHER SUPPORTS ARE EASILY APPLICABLE IN THE VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENT, AS THEY ARE IN THE BRICKS AND MORTAR SETTING.

Steve says RON, I SHOULD GET YOU TO DO A QUICK FOLLOW-UP. I'M NOT SURE WHAT CHUNKING IS.

Ron says CHUNKING IS TAKING A LARGE ASSIGNMENT AND BREAKING IT DOWN INTO SEVERAL COMPONENTS SO IT'S MORE EASILY DOABLE FOR A STUDENT. THEY WOULD DO PART ONE, PART TWO, PART THREE, AS OPPOSED TO SAYING HERE IS YOUR WHOLE PROJECT AT ONCE. A GOOD STRATEGY, LIKE ANDREA SAID, FOR ALL STUDENTS IS TO PROVIDE CHUNKING. IT IS FOUND ON A STUDENT'S INDIVIDUAL EDUCATION PLAN AS AN ACCOMMODATION.

Steve says TESFAI, DO YOU HAVE STUDENTS THAT YOU ARE PARTICULARLY CONCERNED ABOUT BECAUSE THEY NOT ONLY ARE DEALING WITH ALL OF THE ISSUES AROUND VIRTUAL LEARNING, EQUITY, RESOURCES, BUT ALSO LEARNING DISABILITIES AS WELL?

Tesfai says YEAH. I MEAN, I THINK WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT IS EDUCATION, BUT THE WAY... THE REASON WHY WE WENT TO ONLINE LEARNING IS BECAUSE OF COVID, RIGHT, THE PANDEMIC. THAT'S ALSO DISPROPORTIONATELY IMPACTING COMMUNITIES DIFFERENTLY, AND I KNOW IN OUR COMMUNITY NORTHWEST OF TORONTO, IT'S BEEN ONE OF THE HARDEST HIT IN THE CITY. SO, YOU KNOW, STUDENTS ARE... STUDENTS AND FAMILIES ARE ELECTING FOR ONLINE LEARNING, EVEN THOUGH THAT MIGHT NOT BE THE BEST EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCE FOR THEM OR IT MIGHT NOT BE THE BEST ENVIRONMENT FOR THEM TO LEARN. BUT THEY'RE KIND OF WEIGHING THE BALANCE OF THEIR OWN CHILD'S SAFETY VERSUS THE NEED TO LEARN. AND SO THOSE STUDENTS... FOR THOSE FAMILIES THERE ARE A LOT OF CHALLENGES. WE KNOW THAT AS THE PANDEMIC AS A BACKDROP, AS STUDENTS WITHIN THE EDUCATION SYSTEM, THEIR FAMILIES ARE EXPERIENCING MANY INEQUITY, WHETHER IT'S AROUND EMPLOYMENT, WHETHER IT'S BEING AT HIGHER RISK OF CONTRACTING COVID, AND SOME OF THESE FAMILIES ARE IN HOUSEHOLDS WHERE THEY HAVE MAYBE DEVICE AND THERE'S THREE SIBLINGS IN THE EDUCATION SYSTEM ALL ENROLLED ONLINE AND THEY'RE TRYING TO NAVIGATE THAT AND FIGURE OUT WAYS THEY CAN ALL SUBMIT THEIR ASSIGNMENTS. WE'VE HEARD OF STUDENTS THAT HAVE ASKED AND PLEADED WITH TEACHERS IN THE ONLINE ENVIRONMENT ASKING THEM CAN YOU PRINT OFF THE MATERIAL, LET ME HAND IN THE PAPER COPY, BECAUSE THEY'RE SO FRUSTRATED WITH THE ONLINE EXPERIENCE AND ALSO HAVING CHALLENGES AROUND NAVIGATING THE ONLINE ENVIRONMENT. AND SO THERE ARE MANY CHALLENGES THAT THEY'RE FACING AND, YOU KNOW, IT'S DISPROPORTIONATELY IMPACTING THOSE THAT ARE ALSO DISPROPORTIONATELY IMPACTED BY COVID.

Steve says STEPHEN LECCE, THE EDUCATION MINISTER, IS WATCHING THIS RIGHT NOW. SO I WOULD LIKE TO GIVE EACH OF YOU 20 SECONDS AND GIVE HIM ONE IDEA WHICH HE COULD EMPLOY TO MAKE ALL OF THIS BETTER? WE'RE GOING TO GO FROM FURTHER AWAY TO CLOSEST. EMILY, START US OFF. TWENTY SECONDS EACH.

The caption changes to "Making the best of it."

Emily says I READ A GREAT ARTICLE LATELY CALLED TOFU ISN'T CHEESE. DISTANCE LEARNING ISN'T THE SAME AS FACE TO FACE CLASSROOM. TRYING TO MAKE IT THE SAME CAUSES A LOT OF CHALLENGES FOR KIDS AND FOR FAMILIES AND FOR TEACHERS. SO I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT TO FOCUS ON THOSE PIECES THAT DISTINGUISH THE DISTANCE EDUCATION CLASSROOM FROM THE FACE-TO-FACE CLASSROOM AND REALLY WORK WITH TEACHERS ON DEVELOPING THOSE TOOLS AND STRATEGIES AND IDEAS AND PRACTICES THAT SUPPORT QUALITY DISTANCE EDUCATION.

Steve says ANDREA, 20 SECONDS FOR STEPHEN LECCE. GO.

Andrea says YEAH. I THINK, AS WE GIVE OUR STUDENTS VOICE AND CHOICE, I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT FOR LECCE TO UNDERSTAND THAT... TEACHERS AS WELL. THEY WANT TO HAVE THEIR VOICES HEARD, YOU KNOW? AND NOT JUST ON A CONSULTANT BASIS BUT ACTUALLY ON... THERE'S A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CONSULTING AND LISTENING. SO LISTEN TO WHAT TEACHERS ARE SAYING. LISTEN TO THE CONCERNS THAT THEY HAVE IN THEIR CLASSROOM. AND REALLY DON'T BE AFRAID TO REIMAGINE WHAT OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM CAN LOOK LIKE. TEACHING IN PERSON AND TEACHING ONLINE IS VERY DIFFERENT, AND BRINGING THOSE TWO TOGETHER, YOU KNOW, I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT TO LISTEN TO THE CONCERNS THAT PARENTS AND STAFF AND STUDENTS ARE RAISING...

Steve says I'M JUMPING IN. I'M JUMPING IN HERE. BECAUSE TO SECONDS IS 20 SECONDS. TESFAI, YOUR 20 SECONDS TO THE MINISTER?

Tesfai says I WOULD JUST SAY THAT ANY POLICY THAT IS PUT FORWARD, ESPECIALLY DURING THIS TIME, REALLY NEEDS TO CENTRE... CENTRE THE POLICY, THOSE THAT HAVE NOT ONLY BEEN DISPROPORTIONATELY IMPACTED BY COVID BUT ARE HAVING CHALLENGES AS THEY NAVIGATE THE ONLINE ENVIRONMENT. IF WE CAN FIGURE OUT WAYS TO SUPPORT THOSE STUDENTS, IT WOULD ALSO SUPPORT THE BROADER STUDENT BODY AS WELL.

Steve says TERRIFIC. RON, YOUR 20 SECONDS TO MINISTER LECCE?

Ron says I WOULD SAY THAT THIS IS ALSO AN OPPORTUNITY FOR REAL INNOVATION. WE PUT THESE VIRTUAL SCHOOLS TOGETHER REALLY QUICKLY. AFTER THE PANDEMIC, THERE MAY BE A PLACE FOR VIRTUAL LEARNING GOING FORWARD AND WE WANT TO LEVERAGE THE LEARNING FROM THIS YEAR, BECAUSE I THINK TEACHERS HAVE DONE AN OUTSTANDING JOB ALONG WITH THEIR PRINCIPALS TO GET VIRTUAL LEARNING OFF THE GROUND. SO WE'LL WANT TO SEE HOW THIS CAN MAYBE CONTINUE IN SOME FORM, NOT THE SAME FORM, BEYOND THE PANDEMIC.

Steve says INTERESTING. ANNIE KIDDER, PUT A BOW ON IT FOR US, IF YOU WOULD?

Annie says MINISTER LECCE, WE NEED A TASK FORCE SO EVERYBODY IS WORKING TOGETHER. WE NEED TO MAKE SURE THERE ARE SUFFICIENT SUPPORTS FOR FAMILIES. AND WE NEED TO CENTRE EQUITY... I AGREE WITH RON, WE NEED TO LEARN FROM WHAT'S HAPPENING NOW IN ORDER TO CONTINUE ALL OF THE AMAZING INNOVATION THAT'S GOING ON IN SCHOOLS.

The caption changes to "Producer: Cara Stern, @carastern."
Then, it changes again to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Steve says TERRIFIC. AND WITH THAT, I THANK EMILY CARUSO PARNELL, ANDREA GRUSCYK, TESFAI MENGESHA, RON FELSEN, AND ANNIE KIDDER FOR THEIR WISDOM AND SHARING IT WITH OUR VIEWERS ON TVO TONIGHT. THANKS, EVERYBODY.

All the guests say Thank you.

Watch: Grading Ontario's Virtual Schools