Ontario mandates minimum of 225 minutes/day for 'Zoom-style' classes during online learning

Students in Grades 1 to 12 enrolled in online learning full-time this fall will be required to be in a "Zoom-style" class with a teacher for 225 minutes each school day.

As Ottawa parents decide whether to enrol their kids in online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, Education Minister Stephen Lecce has issued a Policy/Program Memorandum with new minimum requirements for Remote Learning in September.

"From Kindergarten right through Grade 12, we're directing up to 225 minutes of the standard 300 minute day for live synchronous instruction, or as I noted a Zoom-style experience for our kids," said Lecce during a Thursday afternoon media conference.

"Kids in Grade 1 to 12 must receive a minimum of 75 per cent of live, synchronous learning each day."

Lecce says part of the school day will not include live classes after unions had raised concerns about the school day going beyond the 300-minute school day for any one-on-one time.

"Therefore, we've preserved 25 per cent of that day for one-on-one support, or group support."

The Ontario Government says synchronous learning will happen in real time for students enrolled in remote learning this fall.

"Synchronous learning involves using text, video or voice communication in a way that enables educators and other members of the school – or board based team to instruct and connect with students in real time," says the PPM issued from the Ontario Government.

The Policy/Program Memorandum says teachers must be available to students at all times during the teachers' assigned teaching timetables, as they would be if they were face-to-face in a classroom setting.

During remote learning, students and parents must be provided with a daily schedule or timetable that includes 300 minutes of learning opportunities, with a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning activities. 

Synchronous learning must be provided where students are at home for more than three days in a given week. 

The Ontario Government outlines the minimum amount of time per day that students, depending on their grade level, must be provided with synchronous learning:

Kindergarten: 180 minutes is the daily minimum synchronous learning time requirement

Grades 1 to 3: 225 minutes is the daily minimum synchronous learning time requirement

Grades 4 to 8: 225 minutes is the daily minimum synchronous learning time requirement

Grades 9 to 12: The higher of 60 minutes for each 75 minute class period or 225 minutes per day for a full course schedule

School boards will hire teachers solely focused on the online learning component during the school year.

Lecce told reporters that "the message was clear from parents" that demanded that children enrolled in remote learning have access to teachers for the full school day and "supported by live, synchronous learning or Zoom-style classrooms."

"They want a greater focus on supports, accountability and expectations and resources for their child. And we certainly agree."

The Ottawa Carleton District School Board says the Ontario Government's new requirements for remote learning will affect the OCDSB Return to School plan.

"The OCDSB will be reviewing these new requirements in detail," said Camille Williams-Taylor, OCDSB director of education Thursday evening.

"We will provide an update with more information, once we have had an opportunity to assess the impact of the PPM and other information included in the minister's announcement."

The OCDSB's back to school plan called for students participating in Remote Learning to receive a combination of live online instruction (synchronous) and posted instruction/learning activities and materials.

The OCDSB says parents must decide by Sunday whether to enrol their children in-class or in remote learning in September.

The Ottawa Catholic School Board says it's also reviewing the new plan, but parents must decide by Friday whether to enrol their kids in online learning.

While we review this, we still need parents to complete the online form by Friday, August 14 (midnight). If significant changes are made to our Back to School Plan, parents will have an opportunity to change their decision before school begins. 2/2

— Ottawa Catholic School Board (@OttCatholicSB) August 13, 2020