Ontario allows schools to have staggered start times

Aug 19 2020, 9:52 am

The Ontario government is allowing for the staggered start to allow school to restart, less than a month before classes begin.

On Tuesday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce sent a memo to school boards, allowing them to stagger the start of the school year by up to two weeks if they feel it will make the reopening safer.

And, boards will not need special approval to implemented the staggered start times, but they can consult their local public health units.

The memo says that school boards come up with their finalized plans that must meet certain criteria which include 300 minutes of instruction delivered each day; indirect and direct student contacts limited to approximately 100 students in the school; and secondary school students are in a maximum of two in-person class cohorts.

The TDSB continues to discuss their restart plan

The memo arrived right when the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) was meeting to address their back to school plan on Tuesday night.

The Ford government rejected the TDSB’s plan a few days ago due to the school board cutting the day by 48 minutes to have smaller classes, but the government noted the shorter days were to allow teachers their prep time.

Due to the setbacks, the TDSB is at the drawing board again to come up with the safe restart plan.

During the board meeting, a survey conducted by the TDSB was brought up, which shows almost 25% of elementary school parents won’t send their kids to class.

The number was included in pre-registration survey results, which were conducted by an automated phone survey from August 11 to August 14.

When asked if they would send their kids back to a regular school-day model with normal class size, 71% of parents said yes, while 29% said no.

The numbers slightly differed when asked if parents would have their child in smaller classes of 15 to 20 students, with 77% saying yes and 23% saying no.

For parents of secondary school students, where class sizes are in cohorts of 15 kids, 83% of parents said they’d send their kids back and 17% said no.

With the information from parents, the board is trying to finalize plans to hire more teachers as well to help with physical distancing in classrooms.

There are also three plans to rehire teachers, of which 400 would need to be added for all options.

The first option would see the board use $6.3 million from the Ministry of Education and $2.9 million of funding repurposed from the TDSB’s budget to add an additional 86 teachers.

Options 2 and 3 would either use $29.5 million in reserve funding for 280 teachers, or $59 million in reserve funding to add 560 staff.

Last week, the provincial government “unlocked” $500 million in reserve funding for school boards to use to ensure of physical distancing in their classes.

On Tuesday, Mayor John Tory announced that 24 facilities and 36 rooms have been found in the city to help the TDSB and its Catholic school board find more space to improve physical distancing for students.

With September 8 just around the corner, the TDSB has just three weeks to turn around a plan that satisfies the Ministry of Education, teachers, students, and parents.

Clarrie FeinsteinClarrie Feinstein

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