WRDSB releases back-to-school plan, parents must fill out attendance form
KITCHENER -- The Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) has released its plan to welcome students back in September.
Parents need to tell the school board this week if their students will attend.
The school board said it wants students and parents to know it's been working on a plan to reopen safely.
The WRDSB is asking parents to fill out a Confirmation of Attendance Form for each child and submit it by 4 p.m. on Aug. 13. The original deadline was set for Aug. 11.
Ontario announced its plans for the new school year last week. The Ministry of Education said elementary schools can return full-time, with improved safety measures and a maximum of 30 students in each class.
Secondary students will come back to school in a hybrid model, with an alternating schedule including in-person attendance for 50 per cent of instructional days.
School will begin again on Sept. 8.
Students will also have the opportunity to participate in distance learning.
The school board said it's including new protocols this year, including:
- Staggering entry and exit of students
- Enhanced cleaning measures
- Frequent hand hygiene
- Mandatory masks for children in Grades 4 to 12
- Directional signage in hallways and stairwells
Staff will wear medical-grade masks and eye protection, the WRDSB said. They will also try to maintain physical distancing whenever possible.
Greg Weiler, the president of the Waterloo Region's branch of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, said there are too many unanswered questions in the back-to-school plan.
"It's going to be chaos," he said.
He also said there are concerns about physical distancing with no limits on elementary school classes.
"In elementary schools, with all students coming back, it's not going to be possible," Weiler said.
Weiler said schools could be returning to distance learning soon after reopening.
"All the school boards have an extreme challenge in taking this plan and trying to make it work," he said. "One of the things I'm concerned about, and others are too, is that they're not going to be able to make it work."
Education Minister Stephen Lecce was in Waterloo Region on Tuesday to visit communities getting new schools and answering some questions about the upcoming school year.
"The overall imperative, from a mental health perspective, is that children need to return to school is the one consensus that may exist on this issue," he said. "The challenge now for government and boards is how do ensure it is safe."
Lecce added Ontario is learning lessons from other countries as well.
"Last week, I spoke with the Minister of Education in New South Wales and they're hitting their flu season now," Lecce said. "The conversation was focused on what are the lessons learned about that risk that's hitting them two to three months ahead of us."
Children returning to in-person classes will be put into a cohort of students to limit contact, the school board said. The Ministry of Education said schools should ensure contact is limited to around 50 students.
The WRDSB said bell times and schedules will be similar to pre-pandemic schedules. Breaks will be staggered to maintain cohorts, the school board said.
Distance learning is also available for children not returning to the classroom in September. Classes will be taught online by teachers in the WRDSB system, either independently or in small groups.
Teachers will also connect with students for one-on-one meetings regularly to make sure students feel connected.
Secondary students will be split into two cohorts, with around 15 students per group.
Students will receive a combination of in-class and distance learning in the fall, the school board said.
Schools will work in a quadmestering format with a four-semester school year. Each semester will offer two credits each for around nine weeks.
Secondary students also have the option for distance learning, which will be taught by WRDSB teachers through independent online learning and teacher-led groups.
Transportation services will be available in the new school year, but all students will need to wear a mask on the bus.
Staff and students are asked to monitor for COVID-19 symptoms. Anyone who tests positive for the novel coronavirus will need to self-isolate until they are cleared to return to class by a public health officials.
Students with complex educational needs will be in classrooms of 15 students or fewer and will have the option to attend classes every day. The school board said it has safety measures in place for working with special needs students where physical distancing isn't possible.