Toronto's school board releases plan for September without reducing elementary class sizes

Aug 11 2020, 7:09 am

The Toronto District School Board has released its plan for the reopening of school in September for parents, but has not reduced class sizes for elementary students.

On Monday, the school board released Returning to School: A Guide to the Safe Reopening of the TDSB, which outlines plans for health and safety measures, learning models, and other supports in schools this September.

The plan has been developed by the school board over the past few months with guidance from Toronto Public Health and the Ministry of Education, along with staff, students, and family members.

Interim Director of Education Carlene Jackson said the TDSB received final direction from the Ministry of Education on July 30, allowing the board to firm up its plans for the fall semester.

Class sizes will not be reduced for elementary students

While high school students will attend school every day with smaller class sizes of 15 students and remote learning for half the day, the same is not happening for elementary students.

The current plan calls for children in kindergarten to Grade 8 to attend school five days a week with one cohort for the whole day.

The TDSB says that they have called on the Ministry of Education to provide funding to reduce class sizes to allow for more physical distancing.

Premier Doug Ford has said that $80 million is available in the province’s reopening plan to hire more staff in school, however, the TDSB has said they would need closer to $250 million to make the necessary changes just in their schools.

“TDSB believes that elementary class sizes should be lowered as a precaution to improve the health and safety of students and staff in schools and to ensure physical distancing guidelines,” the board’s reopening plan states.

“Many of Toronto’s elementary schools are old, small and, in many cases, do not have classroom space that would allow a full class of students to physically distance the recommended two metres.”

Education Minister Stephen Lecce has said that parents have the option to have their child learn remotely if they are uncomfortable with the plan.

In its reopening plan, the TDSB said that it is continuing to call on the provincial government to reduce elementary class sizes because of the pandemic.

“The Province of Ontario has put up a good fight to reduce the spread of COVID-19. But in under a month, over 250,000 public school students and thousands of staff will re-enter Toronto’s public schools during this unprecedented pandemic,” the document says.

“Additional ministry funding to lower elementary school class sizes will respond not only to the advice of health professionals but also to the tens of thousands of parents and educators from all over Toronto and the GTA, who share the view that lower class sizes will help Toronto’s and Ontario’s fight to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

TDSB asks parents if their child will learn in class or remotely

And, starting this week, the TDSB is calling on parents to ask what their back-to-school will look like for the child — whether they will learn remotely or in class.

Jackson said that if parents cannot be reached by phone, then the board will follow up with an email which will include a link to a pre-registration form.

More information about the pre-registration process will be shared with parents on Tuesday, the letter added.

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