Ontario Should Study Independent Schools' Pandemic Successes


August 20, 2021

HAMILTON, ON – As Ontario’s public schools struggle to accommodate students in a new school year amid what could be a fourth wave of COVID-19, the Ontario government should be looking to learn from how independent schools have handled the challenges of the last 17 months. A new study, Pandemic Response, finds that religious independent schools in Ontario showed an ability to transition quickly and nimbly between in-person and remote learning through multiple lockdowns. A survey of school leadership reveals these schools’ rapid and flexible response to local circumstances and unique student needs ensured education continued – and in a way that worked for their respective learning communities, despite the immense challenges of the pandemic and ever-changing government orders. Key findings include:

  • Throughout the pandemic, 70 percent of these schools either maintained or increased special education support for their students.
  • 89 percent of these schools went over and above provincial or regional COVID regulations by regularly sanitizing shared materials, while 84 percent asked staff to wear personal protective equipment that exceeded provincial or regional requirements.
  • 97 percent of these schools had regular email contact with families, 43 percent had regular phone contact with families, and almost one third sent written notes and letters regularly to families.
  • Over 75 percent of schools arranged for pick-up and delivery of physical learning materials to students from Kindergarten to Grade 6.

“Small schools matter,” says co-author David Hunt, Education Director at Cardus. “About 77 percent of the schools surveyed have 300 students or less so unlike industrial-scale schools, they can pivot on-demand. Human-scale schools are responsive by design. This, in large part, stems from the fact that they are profoundly accountable to parents.”

The findings come from a May 2021 survey of school leaders from seventy Ontario independent schools affiliated with the Edvance Christian School Association. A separate Spring 2020 report, Pandemic Pivot, offers additional findings on how religious independent schools fared in the early part of the pandemic.

“Ontario’s religious independent schools have proven themselves to be responsive, responsible, and resolute partners in the provincial education system,” says co-author Dr. Deani Van Pelt, President of Edvance and a Cardus senior fellow. “They deserve both the attention and respect of the provincial government.”

Pandemic Response is freely available online.


Daniel Proussalidis
Cardus – Director of Communications

About Edvance

Edvance Christian Schools Association, established in 2018, is a professional association of independent Christian schools in Ontario and the Atlantic provinces. Edvance exists to foster excellence in leadership, learning, and school operations and management, by offering services and products that include extensive policy and guidebook resources, educational events and digital platforms, governance and leadership consultations, regional cohorts, and proactive advocacy. A growing number of affiliate schools are served by Edvance—currently eighty-three in Ontario and one in Prince Edward Island.


Cardus is a non-partisan think tank dedicated to clarifying and strengthening, through research and dialogue, the ways in which society's institutions can work together for the common good.

Topics: Education