Halton District School Board releases reopening plan for Sept. 2020

 

The Halton District School Board (HDSB) released its reopening plans for September 2020 on Monday (Aug. 10).

As parents, students, and staff prepare for back-to-school amid a pandemic, the HDSB documents focus on the following priorities:

  • Health and safety of students and staff
  • Maximize student learning time
  • Support student and staff well-being
  • Ensure equity of access to learning, supports, technology
  • Provide continuous learning and flexibility
  • Establish comprehensive communications
  • Adhere to fiscal responsibility

The Reopening Schools Guide is designed to offer information on all aspects of the reopening of schools. 

Parents are encouraged to take a survey that indicates whether they’re sending their child(ren) back to school this September. Parents can also opt for a full distance education model.

The choice parents make will be fixed to the end of Term 1 for elementary students and to the end of Semester 1 for secondary students. Both align to the end of January.

We also understand that our delivery model may change based on local or provincial trends in COVID cases,” said the HDSB. “While this guide focuses on the starting September models, rest assured we have contingency plans in place should we need to adapt our delivery models.”

Politicians and teachers have been calling on the Ontario government to revisit its back-to-school plan as the premier continued to assert the strategy to reopen classrooms does enough to keep students and staff safe from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Doug Ford stood firm in the face of mounting criticism about the provincial plan, which does not impose maximum class sizes on elementary school students. Opponents describe the strategy as underfunded and unsafe, noting aspects of it are at odds with the scientific advice Ford insists his government is following.

As the premier continued to tout the plan's safety measures, critics called for the province to go back to the drawing board.

"I'm asking Mr. Ford to listen to the parents who are worried," Opposition NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Wednesday in a statement.

"Listen to the experts that say small class sizes are necessary to keep our kids safe. Time is running out, but it's not too late. We need smaller, safer classes in September."

While the Progressive Conservative government has garnered some praise for aspects of its plan for returning to school next month, the issue of elementary school class sizes has proven contentious since it was announced last week.

The plan will see students in kindergarten through Grade 8 return to school without any reduction in class sizes, though students will spend the day in a single cohort to limit contact with other children.

Most high schoolers will also be in class full-time, though students at two dozen boards across the province will take half their courses online in a bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Masks will be mandatory for those in Grade 4 and up, while those in Grade 3 and below will be encouraged -- though not required -- to wear them.

Both federal public health officials and a panel of experts from leading Ontario pediatric hospitals have said physical distancing is a necessary component of any back-to-school plan.

Ford, however, cited pre-pandemic class-size caps as evidence the province was heeding expert advice.

Ford said kindergarten class sizes are capped at 30 students staffed by one teacher and one early childhood educator, arguing such a setup would allow each education worker to oversee a cohort of 15 children. He said extra funds are available for boards requiring extra support, citing $309 million in new education spending announced when the back-to-school plan was unveiled last week.

"If it was up to all of us, we'd have five kids in a classroom," he said at his daily news briefing Wednesday.

"But in saying that, we have the lowest amount of kids in (junior kindergarten) in the country. We have the lowest kids from Grade 1 to 3 in the country ... So we're doing pretty good, let's give this a shot at least."

Ford repeatedly said the strategy was founded on guidance from experts at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children and other institutions. The guidance document issued by the hospital last week, however, described smaller class sizes as a "priority strategy" for maintaining physical distancing measures crucial in curbing the spread of COVID-19.

With files from Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press

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