The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) unanimously approved a back-to-school plan that will try to reduce class sizes, start classes a week later than originally planned, and implement a mask policy.
On Thursday, the board met to discuss how class sizes can be reduced and confirmed that classes will officially start on September 15.
Originally, classes were to begin on September 8, but the extra week gives staff more time to implement their plans. Different grades will have a staggered start as well, so that not all students are back to school at the exact same time.
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In addition, now all students, staff and visitors will have to wear a mask, with certain medical exceptions allowed.
The TDSD will also redeploy 400 staff and hire an additional 366 teachers to help with physical distancing.
This option will use $6.3 million in provincial funding as well as $2.9 million in reallocated funds from the board’s budget. But the bulk of the funding will come $29.5 million from its reserve funds.
In this plan, the school board will maintain classroom sizes of 26 students maximum in junior and senior kindergarten. There will be 20 students in Grades 1 through 3 and 27 students Grade 4 to 8.
But, schools that are located in neighbourhoods with higher levels of COVID-19, could have their class size capped at 20 for Grades 4 to 8.
Even though the class sizes will be smaller, it still does not allow for the full two-meter physical distancing that Toronto Public Health recommends.
If the TDSB were to try and ensure that full physical distancing could occur in classrooms, they would need to dip into more reserve funding, which Interim Director of Education Carlene Jackson said would cause longer-term repercussions with staff cuts.
The board will now have to find enough space to accommodate students and figure out the necessary transportation.
More detailed plans around virtual learning are also expected to be released next week.
However, the board noted that students learning remotely will be part of a new centralized virtual school rather than being virtually connected to their regular schools.
The TDSB plan now needs to be approved by the Ministry of Education.
Earlier this week the TDSB’s back-t0-school plan was rejected by the Ontario government, making them have to go back to the drawing board.
One of the main criticisms of the Ontario back-to-school plan is that elementary classes will not be physically distanced.
Last week, the provincial government allowed school boards to dip into $500 million of reserve funds to use as they see fit to institute physical distancing.