School reopening plan leads to mixed emotions from parents, teachers

Saturday, 01 Aug, 2020

"To prepare our schools to be as best and responsive as possible, we will be contacting families in the days ahead to get an idea of parent intentions", said Monteith.

All school boards will adopt secondary timetabling methods that emphasize cohorting of students as much as possible, to limit the number of student-to-student contacts.

"It's deeply disappointing", said Marit Stiles, the Ontario NDP's education critic.

Districts will be responsible for configuring classrooms and other spaces to maintain physical distancing and for developing protocols for hygiene and for isolating students who become ill.

But in a joint statement released Thursday, the province's four largest teachers' unions criticized the plan, saying that it would take almost 10 times that amount of money to hire adequate staff and obtain space to properly physically distance students.

It remains to be seen how many teachers are willing to return to classes under these conditions.

The province also announced Thursday licensed child care centres across Ontario will open at full capacity starting September 1 to align child care with the reopening of schools. Students and staff will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms, and anyone who develops symptoms will be excluded from classes until they either recover or test positive.

"We will also be supporting public health efforts by continuing to promote our screening protocols so that students and staff do not show up to school if they have any symptoms of COVID-19, even if they are mild", said Lecce.

Parents will ultimately decide whether they feel it is safe for their children to return to the classroom.

On the other hand, Lecce says two dozen school boards, including the Durham District School Board (DDSB), the Durham Catholic District School Board (DCDSB) and the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), will only head to class every other day, with a maximum class size of 15.

Spagnuolo says elementary class sizes will make following public health guidelines almost impossible.

Medical masks will be provided for teachers and all other school staff. "They're pretty excited to see their friends and ready to get back to routine", Pelletier said. "The parents need them, the province needs them".

Newfoundland and Labrador says it will spend $20 million to purchase laptops for teachers and students in Grades 7 through 12 to support remote learning.

As the lockdown took hold, the province established online learning for both high school and elementary school students and cancelled in-person classes for the remainder of the school year.

The province's 72 school boards were initially asked to outline their plans for the academic year by next week.

High schools in Guelph are among those allowed to reopen under a full-attendance model in September, with in-school classes five days a week.

Local students will return to school five days a week in September while adhering to enhanced safety measures, the province announced on Thursday.

Smaller class sizes allows for more physical distancing, which helps reduce the spread of COVID-19. They also requested a significant increase in funding for everything from cleaning to school ventilation.

- $40 million for cleaning supplies and PPE for the school transportation system.

"Our commitment to the health and safety of the children and staff, will never waver", continued Minister Lecce.

By comparison, the Liberals released a mock budget earlier this week that would have allocated $3.2 billion in pandemic-specific spending, including a plan to hire 15,000 elementary teachers at a cost of $1.3 billion.

Premier Doug Ford announced Thursday afternoon that a plan has been put in place to safely return Ontario's thousands of elementary students to school on a full-time basis this fall.