OTTAWA -- Ottawa's largest school board is spending the weekend working on changes to the Return to School Plan, including revising the schedule for high school students going back to school in the fall.

Staff with the Ottawa Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) are revisiting the schedule for secondary schools after Ontario's Ministry of Education said the expectation would be that students would be in class 50 per cent of the time.

Parents and students were upset when the boards unveiled the adaptive model for secondary school students attending in-person classes full-time this fall. Under the plan, students would attend in-person classes for 150 minutes in the morning, then return home after lunch for an approximately 75 minute "Zoom-style class." That means students would only be attending class in-person 25 per cent of the time this fall.

During a special OCDSB board meeting Friday evening, Director of Education Camille Williams-Taylor noted that Education Minister Stephen Lecce said Thursday that the Ministry of Education's expectations is that students in the adaptive model of learning are in class 50 per cent of the time.

"This sends a number of us back to the drawing board," said Williams-Taylor, noting that 16 boards across Ontario were focusing on the model.

"So that will reflect a change because we will need to reflect on that direction. Many of us spent a significant amount of time (Friday) getting clarification, understanding what that means, understanding what needs to be done next in order to get us to that compliance."

In a letter to parents on Saturday, Williams-Taylor promised to update parents on changes to the secondary school in-person delivery model and remote learning by Wednesday night.

Williams-Taylor noted the new Ministry of Education directive on remote learning released on Thursday would require some changes to the plans for both in-person and remote learning.

"We have also heard your concerns about the secondary in person delivery model," writes Williams-Taylor.

"We are working on changes to the Return to School Plan and hope to share new plans with families by end of day on Wednesday."

Ontario's requirements for synchronous learning (full-time online learning) means students in Grades 1 to 12 must receive 225 minutes of remote learning with a teacher each day.

The OCDSB is giving parents until Sunday night to decide whether their children will enrol in remote learning this fall.

The Ottawa Catholic School Board says it is also reviewing its plans.

Staggered start to secondary schools

The Ottawa Carleton District School Board is considering a staggered start to the school year for secondary school students.

OCDSB Associate Director Brett Reynolds told trustees that the first two days of the first week of school may be set aside for Grade 9 cohorts to visit the schools before the senior students return.

The first day of school is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 3 for elementary and secondary schools.

French board plans include alternating days in class

Ottawa's French-language school boards, the Conseil des écoles publiques de l'est de l'Ontario (CEPEO) and the Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est (CECCE), say their back-to-school plans include having secondary school students in class 50 per cent of the time. 

The CEPEO says they have asked for an exemption under the Ministry's guidelines to have grade 9-12 students at nine of their schools in class 100 per cent of the time. Otherwise, students will be assigned cohorts and be in class at least 50 per cent of the time.

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. Exact hours have yet to be determined.

The CECCE says secondary students will attend class on alternating days: either Mondays, Wednesdays and alternating Fridays or Tuesdays, Thursdays and alternating Fridays. Students will be in class for 150 minutes, with 60 minute lunch break, and return to class for another 150 mintues before heading home.

In all cases, high school classes will have no more than 15 students.