OTTAWA -- Twenty-four days before the new school year begins, Ottawa's two largest school boards have released plans for students to return to school in September.

The Ottawa Catholic School Board and the Ottawa Carleton District School Board have released their back to school plans to parents and students. 

The Ontario Government announced last month that elementary students with OCDSB and OCSB will attend school five days a week. Secondary schools in both boards will operate on a hybrid model featuring classes of about 15 students each, with half of all students in school at a time. The OCSB's plan includes secondary school cohorts in school about 25 per cent of the time each day, with the remaning school day spent at home.

The Ottawa Catholic School Board and Ottawa Carleton District School Board have also sent a form to all parents to indicate whether their child will attend school in-person or by remote learning. The form must be submitted by Friday, Aug. 14. The form is mandatory for all OCDSB students, regardless of how they will attend school, but is only required for OCSB students who are learning remotely.

Infectious disease expert, Dr. Isaac Bogoch tells CTV News Ottawa, "Some kids just won’t be able to go back to school for whatever reason, and in those cases, it’s terrific to have these plans in place so that those kids have access to education as well."

Dr. Bogoch of Toronto's General Hospital adds parents should expect different plans from different boards.

"I think we might hear from different school boards and individual schools how they use the geography that they have and the resources that they have to perhaps split up classes to facilitate physical distancing."

The French Catholic school board will release plans for the school year this week as well.

Students with the Ottawa Carleton District School Board, Ottawa Catholic School Board and the two French language boards in Ottawa are set to return to class on Thursday, Sept. 3.

Here's a look at the plans released so far for each school board.

Ottawa Carleton District School Board

Elementary schools

The OCDSB says elementary students will attend school five days per week. Students will remain in one classroom with the same group of students all day, including lunch and when they go outside for recess.

Prior to attending school, a parent or guardian must screen each student for COVID-19 symptoms. A checklist will be provided before the school year begins. The board says students should only attend class if they answer "no" to every question on the self-assessment and have none of the symptoms on the checklist. Student temperatures will be taken upon arrival at school.

The start of the school year will be staggered for students in Kindergarten through Grade 8. Kindergarten teachers will meet virtually with families Sept. 3 and 4 to prepare them for what the classroom and school day will look like. Year 1 kindergarten students will start on Sept. 8 and Year 2 kindergarten students will start on Sept. 9

In K-8 schools, students in grades 1-3 will start school Sept. 3, grades 4-6 will return Sept. 4, and grades 7-8 will return Sept. 8

In K-6 schools, grades 1 and 2 will return Sept. 3, grades 3 and 4 will return Sept. 4 and grades 5 and 6 will return Sept. 8.

Lockers and cubbies for students at all levels will not be in use at the start of the school year. Students will be expected to keep their personal belongings with them. Students will be given a bin to go under their desks, if their desk does not have storage space, to store their school supplies. Each student will have a designated desk, spaced apart from other students.

Students are asked to come to school with personal hand sanitizer, a personal water bottle, a cloth mask, and their learning materials. Sharing materials is discouraged. Water fountains will be off-limits for drinking, but water filling stations will be available. 

Recesses will be staggered for elementary school students. Play structures will remain off-limits. 

Class sizes

The OCDSB says class sizes are capped as follows:

  • Kindergarten: OCDSB average class size is 25; the maximum class size is 29 students per class, wherever possible the class may be divided into 2 groups;
  • Grades 1, 2, 3: OCDSB average class size is 19; 90% of classes have 20 or fewer students; 10% of classes have up to 23 students;
  • Grades 4, 5, 6: OCDSB average class size is 24.5; there is no maximum class size, but most are below 30;
  • Grades 7, 8: OCDSB average class size is 24.5; there is no maximum class size, but most are below 30.

Secondary school

Grades 9 to 12 students will not be returning to class full-time in September. 

The OCDSB says the secondary school year will be divided into four quadmesters and students will take two classes at a time. Each class will be divided into two cohorts – Cohort A will attend school two days one week and three days the next week. Cohort B will do the opposite. Timetables will be determined after Aug. 14, once the mandatory forms are submitted by families. Cohorts will be divided alphabetically. 

Each cohort will have approximately 15 students.

Prior to attending school, a parent or guardian must screen each student for COVID-19 symptoms. A checklist will be provided before the school year begins. The board says students should only attend class if they answer "no" to every question on the self-assessment and have none of the symptoms on the checklist. Student temperatures will be taken upon arrival at school.

Students who return to class will have designated desks. 

Dismissal times will be staggered to discourage crowding.

What if someone tests positive for Covid-19?

"In the situation where there is a positive case in a school, we will be working with Ottawa Public Health," the OCDSB says. "They will investigate the specific situation, identifying close contacts. Ottawa Public Health could then direct some or all students in a class or in a school to stay at home. In this situation, we would transition to remote learning for that group of students until they can return to school."

Remote learning

The OCDSB says students who participate in Remote Learning will receive instructions at home using a combination of live online instruction and posted learning activities and materials. Students will be expected to be online and present for scheduled instructional time. Attendance will be taken.

Remote learning will take place through Brightspace (D2L) or Google Classroom systems.

Director of Education Camille Williams-Taylor told CTV Morning Live on Monday morning that the board is aiming to have an equal learning process between remote and in-class learning.

"We learned a lot of things about the remote learning option that we had to engage with in the spring," Williams-Taylor said. "That was done in a hurry in an emergency. We've had time to learn. What we're looking at is something that is different from the point of view that there would be more scheduled time online with the teacher. It's not going to be a scenario of simply running a camera in a classroom."

Williams-Taylor said having parents' answers of whether their kids will be back in class by the end of this week will give them time to prepare schools for a safe return. 

"Every school is different," Williams-Taylor said, "In some schools, we'll have unidirectional hallways with arrows. We'll have staggered entries and exits and designated doors. We'll have hand washing stations as well as spacing in the classroom," she said. "As we go into next week, we'll be working really hard to ensure we maximize all space in the classroom."

To see more details from the OCDSB, click here.

Ottawa Catholic School Board

The OCSB's plan will include a return to full-time classes for elementary school students five days per week and a divided "quadmester" system for high school students. Parents can choose to opt their children out of in-school classes and learn online from home, but must fill out a survey saying so by Aug. 14.

Parents whose students are returning to school in person do not need to fill out the survey, the board says.

Elementary school

Elementary students will remain in one classroom throughout the day. All teachers will be wearing medical-grade masks. Whenever possible, learning will take place outside. Parents must screen their children for symptoms each day. Any child who is ill must stay home.

School bus transportation will still be available. Students will have a designated seat on the school bus and will, whenever possible, sit with a sibling or a classmate from the same cohort. Parents are encouraged to drive or walk their kids to school whenever possible.

Class sizes

The OCSB says these are the average class sizes across its board.

  • Kindergarten - the average class size is 26 students.
  • Grade 1-3 - 90% of all classes are 20 or fewer students; 10% are 21-23 students.
  • Grade 4-8 - the average class size of 24.5.

Lockers and cubbies will not be used at either level. Students will be required to keep items with them in class. Large in-person gatherings, field trips, assemblies, intramurals, and extracurricular sports are postponed.

Secondary school

Secondary school students who return to in person classes will have one class each morning and then return home at lunch and continue learning online the rest of the day.

School start times vary, but as an example, the board says a student would attend class from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and then go home for lunch. Their school day will continue online from 12:30 to 3 p.m. each day. Check with your child's school for the exact times they will be in class.

Secondary school classes will be divided into two cohorts, who will attend in person five days out of every two-week period. Cohort A will attend in person on Mondays, Tuesdays, and alternating Wedesdays, while Cohort B will attend the other Wednesday and every Thursday and Friday.

Cohorts will be divided alphabetically to help ensure siblings attend school in person on the same days. Cohorts will be between 12 and 17 students.

Students will have two classes per "quadmester" instead of the usual four classes per semester. 

Where a class or student is required to change rooms during the day for programming reasons, the maximum cohort mixing during the instructional day has been set to 50 for elementary students and 100 for secondary students.

What will happen if the class must isolate in the case of a confirmed case in the class?

"Ottawa Public Health will provide direction to the Principal," the OCSB says. "The Board will follow the provincial outbreak protocol for informing parents. In most cases, we anticipate that the single cohort will move from in-person to distance learning for the time they are out of school, to ensure the continuity of learning. To assist with the potential need to move quickly from in-person to online learning, all teachers will use consistent tools in the fall of 2020. This includes posting the learning activities in the Hapara Learning Management System and using Google Meet when needed if the class must temporarily switch to distance learning. School communication will take place through the new Parent Portal."

Online learning

Kindergarten students who remain home to learn online will not be expected to be in front of a screen five hours a day.

"[Parents] will receive school-readiness activities to do with their child to prepare for when their child does return to school. Educators will be available to support their child online with age- and developmentally-appropriate learning activities," the board says.

Students who are learning online will still be considered a part of their class, and will spend part of the day connected virtually to the classroom.

"The classroom teacher will place the outline of the learning activities in the Hapara workspace for the entire class to access. Depending on the activity, elementary students learning from home may have an opportunity to work with classmates. Students in the Distance Learning model will learn the same curriculum as their in-school peers. They will also be assessed in all areas of the curriculum," the OCSB says.

In some cases, students learning from home will have different teachers for certain activities, as the board does not expect the classroom teacher to teach online and supervise the class simultaneously at all times.

Parents are expected to provide their own technology to allow their child to access online learning but, in cases where a parent cannot reasonably obtain the necessary equipment, the board will loan out Chromebooks.

Parents who opt-in to online learning will be able to send their elementary-aged child back to school at a later date, but will generally be expected to continue with online learning through an entire reporting period (i.e. September to the end of October). Individual requests to change learning models due to family circumstances will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Secondary school students who learn remotely will attend a "virtual academy" and will commit to at least one full semester of online learning.

"The Virtual Academy uses the Ministry of Education’s provincial learning management system to deliver courses. This is called D2L Brightspace. This system was used this summer for our online summer school program. Students complete one course from start to finish before moving on to their next course, the board says. "Students in the Virtual Academy will focus on one course at a time over a 5-6 week period. The five hours per day of learning will focus on the same course each day. Between September and the end of January, students will have completed four courses."

Director of Education Tom D'Amico shared a message with OCSB families on YouTube.

For more details from the OCSB, click here.

Conseil des ecoles publiques de l'Est de l'Ontario

Elementary schools

The French public school board says students in Kindergarten to Grade 8 will return to class full-time in September.

Class sizes

The CEPEO says class sizes will be as follows:

Kindergarten: 15 students for one teacher or up to an average of 26 students for one teacher and one early childhood educator.

Grades 1-3: An average of 20 students per teacher.

Grades 4-8: An average of 24.5 students per teacher.

Secondary schools

The Ministry of Education designated the French public school board for the hybrid-model of schooling for secondary schools. The board has applied to the Ministry of Education to allow students in some high schools to attend in-person classes full-time in September.

The schools are:

  • école élémentaire et secondaire publique L’Équinoxe
  • école élémentaire et secondaire publique Maurice-Lapointe
  • école secondaire publique Académie de la Seigneurie
  • école secondaire publique Barrhaven
  • école secondaire publique L’Alternative
  • école secondaire publique L’Héritage
  • école secondaire publique Le Sommet
  • école secondaire publique Mille-Îles
  • école secondaire publique Marc-Garneau

The full schedule for CEPEO high school students has yet to be announced, but the board offers a preview of how it will work at four schools. Cohort A will attend school on Monday, Wednesday and Friday one week, and then on Tuesday and Thursday the next. Cohort B will have the opposite schedule. The four schools with this planned schedule are:

  • école secondaire publique Gisèle-Lalonde
  • école secondaire publique De La Salle
  • école secondaire publique é.s.p. Louis-Riel
  • école secondaire publique Omer-Deslauriers

Exact hours have yet to be determined.

Remote learning

CEPEO students who are enrolled in remote learning (the programme d’apprentissage virtuel des écoles or P.A.V.É.) will be in a virtual class roughly the size of a normal elementary school class, or of up to 30 students in secondary grades.

A program manager will contact parents when their child is assigned to a member of the classroom staff. Teachers will communicate expectations for school attendance and learning tasks.

The teaching staff assigned to P.A.V.É. will be available during the school day to support and supervise students, except during breaks and at lunch.

The CEPEO says it will take roughly 12 weeks to arrange a change between online and in-person learning, or vice versa, for elementary students. Secondary students must commit to a full quadmester of learning before they can change from one mode to the other.

Conseil des ecoles catholiques du Centre-Est

The French Catholic school board was expected to release the return to class guide Monday, but it was delayed.

The board says it has asked the Ministry of Education to open high schools full-time in some areas.

On its website, the CECCE says although the ministry of education has announced a face-to-face return 5 days a week for elementary school students (kindergarten to grade 8) and an alternate schedule for high school students (grade 9 to 12), the CECCE will be ready for any eventuality during the 2020-2021 school year including:

  • a return to school according to the regular schedule (pre-pandemic),
  • a hybrid model based on alternating days with small groups or distance learning depending on the parents' choice, and
  • a plan for the continuity of distance learning in the event that the closure of schools or classrooms is declared by the government.

Elementary school

Students will return to class full-time, five days a week. Each student must be screened for COVID-19 symptoms before coming to school. If any symptoms are present, the student must remain home.

Elementary school students will be grouped into a cohort and only these same cohorts will be in contact all day long, including during the periods such as music, and physical education, as well as during recess and the lunch period.

Whenever possible, only one full teacher is assigned per class.

Recess, lunch and restroom breaks are staggered throughout the day or areas will be designated for each cohort of students to limit the number of people circulating in the school at the same time.

Specialized teachers (music, physical education, etc.) can go to the classroom while ensuring that direct and indirect contacts are limited to 50 students from the same cohort.

Students receiving resource teaching support are in direct or indirect contact with resource teachers as needed.

Students will be required to wash their hands frequently, including upon arrival at school, before and after meals and snacks, and whenever returning from outside.

Field trips and school assemblies are cancelled until further notice.

The CECCE is also not permitting backpacks until further notice.

While moving through the school, students will keep to the right side of the corridor as much as possible and remain at least two metres apart as much as possible.

Virtual learning

If a parent chooses not to return their child to school, distance education will be offered from Grades 1 to 12 depending on the school.

Distance learning will be provided by the neighborhood school via a hybrid model. The start of the school year for students who have opted for this model will be September 3, 2020. Information on this model will be shared by means of a letter from the CECCE administration.

Secondary School

More information on plans for secondary school students is expected to be shared Aug. 12. 

Virtual Learning Academy

The Conseil des ecoles catholiques du Centre-Est says the parents of 1,700 students have expressed an interest in online learning in September.

Parents have until Aug. 13 to decide whether to enrol their kids in the Virtual Learning Academy. 

Secondary school students who are enrolled in online learning must commit to learning remotely for a full semester, the board says.

"This is necessary because it is impossible to guarantee that the child could have the same classes, if the parent decides to have their child go back to high school in the middle of a semester."


Clarification: An example schedule given by the Ottawa Catholic School Board for secondary students was not properly labelled as such in this article. Start times will vary by school.