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OCDSB plan for September return: two days in class per week plus online learning
OTTAWA -- The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board says it has an idea of how the school year might look come September.
Last week, the Ontario government released its safety plan for the resumption of class for the 2020-21 school year, offering three options for boards to consider over the summer:
- Normal school day routine with enhanced public health protocols. Students going to school every day, in classes that reflect standard class size regulations
- Modified school day routine. School boards will maintain a limit of 15 students in a typical classroom at one time and adopt timetabling that would allow for students to remain in contact only with their classmates and a single teacher for as much of the school day as possible. A modified school day routine would require alternate day or alternate week delivery to a segment of the class at one time.
- At home learning. The government says should the school closure be extended, or some parents choose not to send their child back to school, school boards need to be prepared to offer remote education.
OCDSB Director of Education Camille Williams-Taylor told CTV News Ottawa last week that the board is proceeding with plans for an "adapted model" that will include a mixture of in-class and at home learning.
In a letter to families, sent Friday, Williams-Taylor said the current plan being discussed would include two days of in-class learning per week, with the student body split into two groups. Schools would be deep cleaned in between.
"Current discussions about this model would have one where half the students attend school on Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday would be a day for deep cleaning of schools, and on Thursday and Friday, the other half of the students would attend school," the note said.
"This model looks and feels very different, but is an important step towards the return to a regular school day."
Parents will have the option to have their children opt out of in-class learning, Williams-Taylor said.
The plan is subject to change, based on government and public health advice, and on the trend of the COVID-19 pandemic. An announcement of a final decision on the start of the school year is expected in early August. Families can expect regular updates over the summer.
In an email to CTV News Ottawa on Sunday, board chair Lynn Scott said feedback from parents would be an important part of coming up with a plan for the new school year.
"There are still many details to work out and feedback from parents and staff will be an important part of informing our work. No final decisions have been made on a plan for the return to school in September. The board will be meeting to discuss the options during the summer as plans continue to evolve," Scott said.
"All plans must align with the Ministry guidelines and public health directives. I think everyone wants a regular return to school, but unfortunately, our current health situation requires planning for many different and complex possibilities."
Officials at Ottawa's French-language catholic board, the Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est, sent a letter to parents describing possible scenarios, including some students at the elementary level attending class Mondays and Wednesdays and another group attending Tuesdays and Thursdays, with the Monday-Wednesday group going one Friday and the Tuesday-Thursday group going the other Friday. Those staying home would receive work on their days off. Other options include full school or learning at home full time, as outlined by the provincial government.
The CECCE said things could change depending on health and provincial advice.
In terms of the risk of COVID-19 infection for children, experts from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto (SickKids) said in a report issued June 17 that multiple reports from around the world indicate that children account for a small percentage of COVID-19 infections and the majority of them are asymptomatic or have only mild symptoms.
According to Ottawa Public Health, only 95 of the 2,079 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 to date have been in people under the age of 20.
Speaking to CTV Ottawa's Dave Charbonneau Saturday, local mom Erin Wallace said she doesn't think this plan will work for her family.
"I work full time. I have no time in a regular day to teach my four year old anything and I think a teacher would be more qualified to teach her than what I can," she said. "I also have a son who is special needs who goes to a special school for behavioural issues. He has to be one on one, hands on with the teacher. We’re trying to discourage him from being on electronics all day and its like, oh here, go sit on a computer all day and be on electronics. For children like mine it doesn’t work like that."
Local dad Jamie Gibeau said his kids do want to go back to class, and two days a week is better than none, but would mean a shifting schedule for him.
"My kids want to go back to school. If they cant go back to school five days a week, its not so bad but then I have to switch all my schedule around. Parents are used to working five, six days a week. People are going to have to find babysitters or find family to be there to help them."
Williams-Taylor also said the Chromebooks and internet hot spots lent out this spring will remain with students over the summer. The hot spots will be active through July to allow for summer learning. They will be turned off in August and then back on Sept. 1.
With files from CTV's Jackie Dunham.