The TDSB back-to-school plan is now out so we finally have some details on how Toronto schools will look when students head back to classes in September.
At the end of last month, the province revealed the guidelines for Ontario schools, which included measures like face masks for students Grade 4 and older, the deployment of 500 new public health nurses and 900 custodians to help with new sanitization measures, and targeted testing and screening for the virus.
Though the model was based on advice from provincial health officials and experts at Sick Kids Hospital, some schools and bodies like Toronto Public Health decried many aspects of it, particularly the fact that class sizes weren't being reduced — save for cohorting of students at at-risk high schools — and that physical distancing of only one metre (as opposed to two) was all that was being implemented.
Premier Doug Ford assured the public that Ontario will continue to have the smallest class sizes in the country and that other provinces were touting our back-to-school plan as among the best.
But, the TDSB wanted to add a few of its own amendments, and after a bit of back and forth between it and Queen's Park, a plan of action was finalized Thursday evening, with the following major changes.
- Masks will now be mandatory for all students from JK to Grade 12 — different from the original plan, in which they were only mandatory for students in Grade 4 and up.
- Kindergarten classes will be capped at 26 students.
- Grade 1 to 3 classes will be capped at 20 students.
- Grade 4 to 8 classes will be capped at 27 students.
- Some Grade 1 to 8 classes in neighbourhoods particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 will now be capped at 20 students. JK and SK classes in the same areas will be capped at 15.
- Class sizes for other grades and schools may be lowered, depending on the results of a registration survey that closes on Aug. 29.
New in #onted: The back-to-school plan recommended by TDSB staff would see kindergarten class sizes capped at 15 students and all other elementary grades capped at 20 students in high-risk schools. pic.twitter.com/wYgZ5IHstj— Nick Boisvert (@nickjboisvert) August 20, 2020
- The first day of classes has been moved to Sept. 15, a week later than the original date Sept. 8. After criticisms of the province's plan, Minister of Education Stephen Lecce stated that schools in Ontario will be allowed a grace period of up to two weeks from Sept. 8 if they chose to start later.
- There will also be staggered start dates for different grades.
- City land including public parks and buildings will be made available for schools to use for classes without a permit, given that open outdoor spaces are less conducive to virus spread and make social distancing easier.
- Schools are being encouraged to utilize outdoor spaces for learning whenever possible, while the province has vowed to improve HVAC systems for better ventilation in select facilities.
- Extra outdoor breaks will also be granted to all students.
- On top of the 900 custodial staff and 900 public health nurses, 366 more teachers will be hired, and 400 teachers will be redeployed to help with class size, at a cost of $29.5 million.
- All school staff will receive additional health and safety training, as per the provincial plan.
Surveys by third parties have suggested that only somewhere around 63 per cent of parents intend to send their kids back to school in-person — while a TDSB survey estimated this number to be closer to 71 per cent — with the remainder electing for the virtual-only option that the province is still providing.
The board has stated that it will have space shortages in dozens of institutions if all students return for in-person learning, but would be able to accommodate about 80 per cent of students with physical distancing in place, with only four schools having classroom shortages that could be partially offset by using city space.
Parents will have five days next week to register students for either in-person or the remote learning option.
Comprehensive details for high school students have not yet been released.
by Becky Robertson via blogTO