Start date for schools reopening in Toronto might be delayed and staggered
The back-to-school debacle in Ontario has been a major headache for parents, educators and members of the public who simply want a guarantee that children and staff will be safe once schools reopen in September, but it seems some Toronto students may not be going back as early as expected.
Following the news that school boards in Ontario will now be allowed to dip into reserve funds to pay for things like improved HVAC systems and smaller classes in elementary schools — announced by Ontario's education minister yesterday — TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird told Newstalk1010 that the board is looking into a delayed start to the school year.
@fordnation @Sflecce @tdsb Why not delay until there's an actual plan? Plan A. Return to in person school safely so that we can stay in school Plan B Effective remote learning should Covid cases rise. City of 5 million needs its own plan. https://t.co/ZEPmGtJpzq— Heidi Pyper (@heidipyper) August 12, 2020
Interim TDSB director Carlene Jackson, meanwhile, said in a letter to trustees that making elementary class sizes smaller could be feasible thanks to the new money, but that would require finding new space and would likely mean schools wouldn't be ready to open on Sept. 8 as was originally intended.
Arranging buses to transport students to the new spaces would also require sufficient planning, according to the letter, and the board says using money from the reserves — which was intended for future use — could also create financial problems in the long run.
But with the new funding as well as some additional help from the province, the TDSB says they may be able to find $20 million to create classrooms of 15 students from junior kindergarten to Grade 3, and classrooms of 20 students from Grade 4 to Grade 8.
Doing this would also require the school day to end about 45 minutes early so teachers can prepare, though this requires ministry approval, and teachers would also have to be reassigned, all of which would be difficult to solidify before Sept. 8.
Delay opening schools! We need to know what our actual schools are doing! Generic information is not enough to make an informed decision about returning to schools! Or what remote actually looks like! @tdsb @fordnation @CEPascal @imgrund #SafeSeptember! https://t.co/5QEv15g4Cq— Veronica Kutt (@VK_ArtistPromo) August 11, 2020
Minister of Education Stephen Lecce, meanwhile, told CBC Radio's Metro Morning Friday that he would be open to a staggered start for elementary schools.
In other words, not all students would return to classes on the same day.
Later in the day, the Ontario government sent a memo to chairs of district school boards as well as directors of education stating that it will allow boards to adopt a staggered start to the school year.
"School boards will be permitted to adopt staggered start to the first week of the school year, such as allowing different grades to return on different days, if boards feel that this would contribute to students learning new routines and for health and safety practices to be reinforced," the memo reads.
"School boards will not need to seek any adjustment to previously approved school calendars should they choose to adopt this approach."
@tdsb parents are not confident in your plan and you are making them commit to online or in-person classes tomorrow?? Craziness.@Sflecce @fordnation listen to parents, teachers and experts and delay preregistration until you come up w a coherent plan— Nikki NP (@nikmarks) August 10, 2020
Despite these new developments, many are still incredibly critical of how the province has handled the back-to-school situation, with a number of parents saying they intend to keep their kids home unless a safer plan is solidified.
Parents and educators have cited class sizes, a lack of PPE, an inability to practice physical distancing and insufficient air circulation as just some of their reasons for concern, while Premier Doug Ford and Lecce have continued to tout their plan as being "the best in the country."
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