KITCHENER -- The Waterloo Catholic District School Board could offer classes mixing in-person and online learning next year.

Director of Education Loretta Notten spoke about the option at a Board of Trustees meeting on Monday night. She said the hybrid model is the best move for secondary students to give them options for more courses.

A survey sent to families found that around 600 elementary students want to learn virtually in the fall. Around 200 secondary students also plan to take online classes in the next school year.

Notten said the WCDSB will continue operating its online school, St. Isidore, for elementary students next year, but will offer hybrid classes in secondary school.

"Given that our secondary numbers are rather low and that they're spread across four different grades and five different schools, it becomes virtually impossible to create congregated classes and it would create a series of conflicts for those students," Notten said. "So, we've made a decision to proceed to a hybrid model in secondary."

The school board plans to set up web cams in classrooms, so those who choose to stay home to learn would have the same view as those sitting in desks.

For teachers, offering both online and in-person learning will require a balancing act, unions say.

"It's been really hard to do everything over zoom, but now to try and juggle both of those modes at the same time, I don't think it's good for the kids, I don't think it's good for education," said Patrick Etmanski with the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association's Waterloo chapter.

Etmanski said he's also worried the hybrid model could trigger increased class sizes.

"It's a slippery slope towards that, so I mean if you can handle 25 kids in class and five kids virtually, what's the difference if we make that 10 kids virtually or 15 kids virtually," he said.

Notten said those who have signed up to stay home can switch to in-person learning at any time, but those who begin the year in brick-and-mortal schools will not be allowed to swap to virtual.

She said the school board is still waiting to hear more from the province this summer about ground rules for high school in the fall, so details on the hybrid model are still not finalized.