High school seniors consider fifth year after pandemic moves learning online

Published May 10, 2021 6:34 p.m. ET
Updated May 10, 2021 7:19 p.m. ET

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KITCHENER -- A challenging year of online learning has some local high school seniors reconsidering their post-graduation plans, with the idea of taking a "victory lap" fifth-year becoming more appealing.

"I felt like having that extra year will solidify my beliefs and what my future will look like," said Forest Heights senior Jayden Wright. "I don't know I want to outright spend that money and spend all that money to just be sitting on my bed on a Google Meet."

Wright, who had plans to study accounting at university, said she's taking an extra semester come September to offset gaps in her pandemic-induced online learning experience.

She said studying online has been less engaging than learning in a classroom.

"The subjects that I'm taking, I'm just not getting that much of an in-depth learning experience," she said. "That teacher contact is so important for a good learning environment, like asking questions and verifying your knowledge."

Both the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) and the Waterloo Catholic District School Board (WCDSB) said it's too soon to tell if there will be an increase in students planning to stay for a fifth year of learning.

"We recognize that this year with the switches between remote and in-person learning have been particularly challenging for students," reads a statement from the WRDSB. "We're committed to supporting students in whatever way we can."

A fifth year of education for high-schoolers planning to attend university, known either as Grade 13 or the Ontario Academic Credit, was phased out in 2003.

A spokesperson for the WCDSB said while its possible students may return to strengthen learning, the board "would not see that as an indication of a desire to reinstate grade 13, but to solidify learning before embarking on a post-secondary journey."

The WCDSB acknowledged the pandemic has "not led to optimal learning conditions."

For Wright, along with some of her friends and classmates, taking a fifth year before committing t to a field of study in university makes the most sense.

"A lot of times, people will be like, 'why are you taking a fifth year if you can graduate?" she said. "I just think taking your time is not a bad thing."


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