OTTAWA -- Back-to-school this fall seems like it’s far away, but the decision on whether to send kids back to the classroom or virtual learning is now for families in Ottawa’s English public school board.

If you’re thinking of keeping your kids at home this September, know that not all programs will be available virtually.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) is asking parents to make a decision by March 14 at 11:59 p.m.

Christine Moulaison has already decided to send her kids to in-person classes learning this fall. 

“For my kids, I think it’s the best option for them. When we did the virtual learning at home, although they did well, I find they just seem to work better in-person, in the brick and mortar school.” 

Moulaison is an Ottawa parent, and co-chair of the Ottawa Carleton Assembly of School Councils and says parents still have many questions.

“Do I send my kids to brick and mortar even though I'm not comfortable in doing that, and I’m opting to do it now, not knowing if there’s funding coming, if there’s program changes, if there’s vaccines in time, et cetera,” she says parents are asking.

The OCDSB says learning safely in-person is best but that decision is ultimately up to parents.

On its website, the board says that some programs, such as special education and certain types of French immersion, won’t be available to virtual students.

“If it comes to his education, I think I would rather send him to school than let him lose his French immersion program,” says Noor Moaket, whose son is heading into Grade 6 in the fall. “In this case, I think I have no choice but to send them.”

Middle French Immersion (MFI) won’t be available virtually, and the school board says online class sizes will also be larger and more likely to include multi-grade classes.

Middle French Immersion (MFI) is considered a distinct program from Early French Immersion (EFI). MFI starts in Grade 4, whereas EFI starts in Grade 1. EFI classes will be available virtually, but the board says they cannot mix MFI with EFI in online classes.

All forms of French immersion remain available for in-person learning.

Students who are currently enrolled in MFI or English Alternative and who require virtual learning can consider a one-year move to the English program for the 2021-2022 school year, the board says, and they will be able to return to their program of choice in the 2022-2023 school year.

The Ottawa Catholic School Board’s deadline to make the decision was last week.