Local school boards will decide how classes will be conducted in September
KITCHENER -- The provincial government has released three possible plans for the new school year but it will be up to each school board to decide what’s best for their region.
The three options are as follows: students return for in-person instruction while following public health measures, students continue remote learning with live instruction, or a version that combines both those options with students attending school on alternate days or weeks.
Whatever version local school boards choose, Education Minister Stephen Lecce says classes will include no more than 15 students at a time with a single teacher.
Each option will be re-evaluated after the start of school in September.
"Should Ontario continue to flatten the curve and continue to make gains we will allow school boards to move closer to a conventional classroom experience, with stringent health and safety protocols in place," says Lecce.
There’s also some flexibility for parents who don’t feel comfortable sending their child to school.
Premier Doug Ford says those students will be allowed to stay home while they continue with online learning.
The provincial government says each option will include new safety protocols for screening, use of personal protective equipment, cleaning and support for mental health.
REACTION FROM LOCAL SCHOOL BOARDS
The Upper Grand District School Board says they’ve already been preparing for different scenarios for September, though the province only provided official guidelines on Friday.
“Staff are going to continue to work on this, but they’ll go through the document and fine tune their work over the next few weeks and summer months,” says Heather Loney, the Communications Officer for the UGDSB.
The public school board in Guelph says it will be working closely with the Catholic school board to coordinate shared resources like transportation.
In Waterloo Region, both school boards say they’ll also be working together.
The Waterloo Catholic District School Board released a statement saying, in part: “We know there are three scenarios for which we must plan and, obviously, that will come with a great deal of planning and thoughtful consideration, which is underway but will take time to complete. In all cases, we will take our best advice from our public health officials and Chief Medical Officer of Health, and regardless of the scenario in the fall, the health, safety and well-being of our staff and students will be a top priority -- as will our commitment to continue providing quality, inclusive, faith-based education”.
The Waterloo Region District School Board released a similar statement,which reads in part: “We are currently reviewing the announcement and will share more with our community when we are able. We want to make it clear to our families that the health and well-being of our students and staff is our top priority. We will be working closely with the Region of Waterloo Public Health to ensure that our return to school plans and protocols meet the needs of everyone in our schools.”
They also planning on sending families a survey to get their input on the public school board’s return-to-school plan.
The teachers unions say they’re disappointed with the lack of details from the province.
“Everyone has understood the need to pull together and make a very difficult situation work as well as possible,” says OSSTF President Rob Gascho.
Some students are upset that they school won’t return to normal in September.
“Only half the week I’m there and half the week I’m not, so it will be weird for me,” says Amelia Fischer, who is starting Grade Six in the fall.
Her brother Neil, who is going into Grade 11, is a bit more understanding.
“If we have to do online learning, and go back to the school at the same time, and if it’s the safest option then yeah, we should do that,” he says.
The Fischer family is happy that they’ll get a say on what they want in September.
“My first choice is of course sending them to school, barring anything crazy happening again,” says mom Elaine. “But their safety obviously comes first.”
Families can expect more details from their school boards sometime in August.
- With reporting by Nicole Lampa