BARRIE, ONT. -- For the first time on Thursday, hybrid classes were in session for high school students across the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board.

High school classes had been running on two separate streams. One put students in the classroom with a teacher at their neighbourhood school. The other brought students from around the region together in a virtual school, learning through their computers.

The blending of those streams has been a complicated process. The board's communications manager admits there have been some bumps through the phase-in period that began Monday.

"Connectivity issues, issues with the virtual platform, things like that that we're working through," says Pauline Stevenson. "Our ICT staff have been out in full force, trying to troubleshoot the issues and make things better."

The SMCDSB backed a hybrid education model because the board feels it's more flexible to offer students a variety of courses to meet their interests and requirements for post-secondary education. There's also a buffer should a student get sick or come into contact with someone who is.

"Let's say a student has to self-isolate because of COVID-19, they can continue their studies very easily for two weeks or three weeks at home, some teacher, same classmates, same learning," Stevenson says.

The Simcoe County District School Board offers similar reasons for its planned flip to a hybrid learning model for secondary students on Feb. 4, 2021.

Superintendent of Education Dawn Stephens explains that the current model isn't sustainable.

"Courses would have to be collapsed, sections would have to be cancelled, and we would have to reschedule entirely, most likely, the whole system," Stephens says.

The public board will send a survey to elementary students' parents in the coming weeks, looking for input on pandemic learning. But Stephens says the SCDSB has no plans to adopt the hybrid system for elementary students right now.

A plan by the Catholic board to move its littlest learners into a hybrid model was paused earlier this month after a protest. Its board of trustees will consider a report on options for elementary learning on Wednesday.

Staff will be putting a report forward to the Catholic Board trustees that will address snow days during the pandemic. Some Ontario school boards have decided to shift all students to online learning when bad weather makes the trip to school unsafe, rather than cancelling classes for the day.

Simcoe County's public board says it has no plans to change its inclement weather policy.