Andrea MacDonald with her daughters Rose, 5, and Grace, 9, take part online with Twitter's "virtual camp" at their summer residence in Harcourt, Ont., Sunday, August 2, 2020. When Andrea MacDonald begins working from home each morning, keeping her two daughters busy is rarely a worry. Grace and Rose have spent the last two months being read Dr. Seuss books by Twitter Inc. founder Jack Dorsey and learning about literary terms through Harry Potter. Both are part of Camp Twitter, a virtual program for kids of the tech company's employees. The offering is one of several dreamed up by companies to help Canadian employees juggle their professional and parenting duties, while working from home and having limited camps, daycare, school or child care options to lean on during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Thornhill

Last minute surge in demand for online learning poses challenge at some Ontario school boards


Some Ontario school boards are delaying the start of virtual learning due to a growing demand for online education in the run-up to back-to-school.

Three Toronto-area boards say they've seen a surge in parents opting to keep their kids out of the classroom during the COVID-19 pandemic in the eleventh hour, further complicating the already difficult task of co-ordinating classes.

The Peel District School Board, for instance, says it had to push back live online classes because 10,000 students signed up for virtual learning in the past week.

It says such classes will now start on Sept. 21 for elementary students and Sept. 22 for high schoolers - a week's delay - so the board can wrangle more staff to account for the 64,000 students who are now learning from home.

The Halton District School Board advised parents Friday that online learning will begin on Wednesday rather than Monday because of “recent and increased demand” for the remote option.

That board says it working through a “significant” waitlist for virtual school and advised people who are currently attending in-person classes to continue doing so, as some virtual classes are full.

Meanwhile on Thursday, the Toronto District School Board announced that while elementary students attending classes in-person will have a staggered start to the school year on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, those doing online learning - and most high school students - will begin on Thursday.

“Due to the large number of families who have selected Virtual School (more than 66,000 students), we require additional time to staff and timetable to ensure a more consistent opening for all staff and students,” the board said in a letter to parents posted on its website.

The spread of COVID-19 has increased in recent weeks, with the province reporting more than 200 new cases of the virus in each of the last three days. Toronto and Peel Region have been particularly hard hit, often reporting dozens of new cases each day.