Region to get retired nurses to help out with spotting early signs of an infected student or teacher

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

August 30th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The province announced that 500 +/- nurses would be hired to assist the return of students to school.

nurse hat

Every retired nurse in the province is going to want to take a closer look at this opportunity.

What wasn’t at all clear at the time was who would actually do the hiring: the schools – they didn’t think so.  The Regions – probably but they were still working their way through the document they got from the province and working out terms and conditions.

Meanwhile every retired nurse in the province who can find their little white cap with the black stripe would be lining up for what looked like an easy assignment.

NURSE CROPPED best

Not enough to put a nurse in every school but there should be enough to create a core of nurses at each Public Health Unit who can respond quickly.

In its statement Halton Region set out what they expected – subject to a firm agreement in place of course.

Expected roles for School Health Nurses

Support existing school health and communicable disease control programs in public health by:

• Providing support to school boards and schools in the development and implementation of COVID-19 health and safety plans
• Providing sector specific support for:
• Infection prevention and control
• Surveillance, screening and testing
• Outbreak management; and
• Case and contact management
• Supporting communication and engagement with parents and local communities, as well as the broader health care sector.

With schools actually re-opening on the 14th – there will be enough time to get the nurses hired and train them for the task that will last until the end of the year.

The question in the air is – will there be a second wave and will Halton see very much in the way of infections?.

A school board just outside Montreal where schools opened last week reported a teacher who was found to be infected on the first day back in classrooms.  Isolation for all the children she was teaching along with her own social circle.

nurse announcement ALL

The provincial announcement was made late in July.

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School principals scramble to create classes now that they have much of the data they need. Public Health unit prepares for

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

August 28th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

In a statement released by the Halton Region Public Health office we learn that they “continue to work closely with the Ministry of Health, local school boards and community partners to ensure all students return to a safe learning environment this September.

Dr Meghani at news conference Hamilton

Dr Meghani, the Regional Medical Officer of Health

“This includes providing recommendations to school boards for reopening to be considered in conjunction with directives and guidance provided by the Province. The school boards decide what measures to implement based on their circumstance.”

The key words are that the school boards make the decisions.

Parents know what it costs to keep their children in these classrooms - now they know what it costs to keep the principals in the schools. Too much?

Setting this classroom up so that the students are six feet apart if not going to be an easy.

As families prepare for the start of the school year, Halton Region Public Health is communicating directly with parents in several ways, including a video, a letter and webinar events (the HCDSB webinar was Tuesday night and HDSB webinar was Wednesday evening,”

Halton, like the rest of the province is “waiting to hear from the Province about the terms and conditions on funding to hire nurses, however there are many public health nurses and several staff who are already supporting the school administrators and community. We will also be recruiting temporary nurses to help with our efforts in schools.”

The decision by the Halton District School Board to move the opening up of classrooms to the 14th of September with some students being introduced to their classroom the week before, has school principals scrambling to learn which parents have decided to send their children back to the classroom and how many have decided to have their children stay at home and learn on line.

A Milton parent set out the concern many have about sending their child into a classroom; she said: “I’ve decided to keep the kids home for the foreseeable future.

“I’ve had to drop most of my volunteer commitments to focus on work and the kids. It hasn’t been easy but we have settled into a nice routine and are enjoying the time that we have together. This whole COVID thing has forced me to really take a deep look at my priorities and for now it’s my family.”

School principals have to work on a class by class, grade by grade level to learn what the population of the school is going to be. With this data they can determine how many students will be in a class. If sufficient numbers decide to stay home a principal may have to combine classes.

Logistically it is a bit of a nightmare.

School buses

Short trips – full loads. School busing just another potential problem area.

Getting students to school is a challenge as well. Those who take the school bus (many really have no choice) will find that the most recent plan was to fill each bus but to make the trips as short as possible.

The Board’s Superintendents have all been assigned to specific problem areas: elementary, secondary, mental health – name the problem and there will be a senior staff person on top of it and tracking the problems.

These people have been working flat out since March when they found that they had to recreate the way students were to be educated amidst an environment where the province took the time they needed to determine what was safest and the most politically expedient.

The virtual Town Hall did give the public a good opportunity to ask questions on Wednesday and Board senior staff were able to provide answers. There wasn’t a lot of good news.

Parents can forget the idea of actually entering a school. The doors will not be open to a parent who wants to meet with and talk to a teacher about problems with their child.

Claire outside the school

Teaching the high school students to stay within their cohorts is going to be a challenge – one MMR principal Claire Proteau is up to.

Given what we know about covid-19 – and there is a lot that is not known – the focus is now on limiting as much as possible who students interact with.

This virus is spread from person to person – the solution then is to limit the number of people a student interacts with.

Every student will bring with them every person they and members of their family have interacted with and then interact with fellow students who bring the same thing with them.

Situations like this drive the public health people crazy – they wait, poised, to move quickly when there is a sign that there might be an infected student in a school and if there is they move immediately to trace the contacts and inform them that they need to self-isolate.

All it takes is for one high school student to go to a party, pick up an infection and bring it back to their class and spread whatever they might have picked up.

There is a huge bureaucracy in place to deal with the problems – and there will be problems.

The first line of defence is in the homes – explaining to students who see themselves as invincible, that they are both part of the problem and probably the biggest part of the solution.

We are about to find out how good we are at taking care of ourselves as a community.

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School opening moved to September 14th - masks required in all grades: 1-12

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

August 27th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

During a two and a half hour virtual Town Hall meeting last night parents with children attending the Halton District School Board (includes Burlington, Oakville, Milton and Halton Hills) learned that school will not start on September 8th, but will instead start on September 14th.

Some students will be “introduced” to their school the week before.

students in mask

Masks will be required – all grades 1-12

Masks will be required in every grade from 1 through to 12.

The Medical Officer of Health has recommended that Junior Kindergarten and Senior Kindergarten (JK and SK) also wear masks.

Students will get mask breaks during the day.

The public heard a half hour presentation from the Medical Officer of Health during which she set out the rules that will ideally contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus, which in Halton has been quite low.

Parents had been asked by the Board to return Intent to Attend forms so that the administration could determine which form of education students would be taking – in the classroom or virtually at home.

Parents wanted more information before sending in the forms – the school board wasn’t able to give out information because they didn’t know what the class sizes were going to be – a classic Catch 22 situation.

Miller prep at Central

Director of Education Stuart Miller

Earlier in the month the board administration had announced that it was creating virtual schools, which they would need in the event of a school- or system-wide shut down.

It was first seen as something that might be needed – that might turned out to be necessary when more than 1600 students decided to not attend a school – they have chosen to be educated virtually.

The virtual schools will not be “local” – they will include students from within the Region.

There will be three virtual schools for the Region and a single virtual high school.

Details were a little sketchy – parents were told that all the information they needed was “on the web site”.

The Gazette will chase down the details in the days ahead.

School is going to be very different come September 14th.

Director of Education Stuart Miller in his closing remarks advised parents to “trust their own judgement”.

“Staff are nervous” he said.  “I am nervous”.  “Trust your own judgement” when deciding which form of education your children are going to get.

A Milton parent said to a friend and shared with the Gazette:

“I’ve decided to keep the kids home for the foreseeable future.

“I’ve had to drop most of my volunteer commitments to focus on work and the kids. It hasn’t been easy but we have settled into a nice routine and are enjoying the time that we have together. This whole COVID thing has forced me to really take a deep look at my priorities and for now it’s my family.”

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Twelve days left - then school opens - a lot of unanswered questions and a lot of missing information

News 100 blueMichele Bogle

August 26, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

The people mentioned in this article are real.  They are part of a group I assembled to serve as a sounding board to provide insight into what parents and educators are thinking and feeling.  Their real names are not used’ allowing them to speak freely without any implications on their family life and their livelihood.

With just 12 days from the ‘Reopening School’ start date for most in the province, parents, educators and the boards are frustrated.

What has happened since this writer’s last article on the subject?

In light of new information from the Ministry released on August 14, the Halton District School Board extended the deadline for parents and guardians to complete the ‘Intent to Return Survey’ to August 23 at 4pm.

There was then a lengthy  Board of Trustees meeting on August 21st.

What do we now know that we didn’t know or understand before?

HDSB trustees

The Halton District school Board trustees have been putting in long hours – the Chair has found he voice and is speaking out to the Ministry of Education.

We have some questions answered but many more are unanswered at this point. One very significant hindrance to implementing or laying out all the details was the fact that the board needed critical mass numbers in order to present an accurate working-model. The parents and guardians needed to know full details of the reopening before deciding, thus creating a conundrum.

Last week, Library Information Technician Carmen White informed us that funding for the additional teachers to allow for 15-person class sizes is not available. Concerns expressed by elementary school teacher Maria Vanelli and parents to elementary school students, Jeremy and Talia Unger, are shared by most parents and educators.

Miller prep at Central

Director of Education Stuart Miller

Miller while motion being read May 2-18

This question was answered in the long meeting last Friday night. Stuart Miller clarified by stating that the province has given the directive of same class sizes with an option for parents to choose distance learning. The safe-guards would be in place with respect to managing the cohorts and following the strict Halton Health protocols and guidelines.  When accurate numbers of students from the surveys are determined and some classes have larger amounts of distance learners, the Director was asked whether he would take ‘in-person’ students from other classes in the same grade and place them in those classes to minimize overall class sizes and the answer was, “no”.

He went on to explain that Halton class sizes, on average, fall well within the maximum numbers allowed per province guidelines and that instead the class of fewer students could be moved into existing classes within the same grade, freeing up a teacher up for a virtual class.

French Immersion ‘in-person’ classes would exist, numbers permitting. These students would otherwise merge with the general population until the ministry directs a return to school. A concern Talia Unger also has.

The Board does not currently have a plan to allow for French Immersion students to be caught up with their curriculum in the event that there are no French Immersion classes designated.

High school teacher Sandra Parker struggles with why the ministry allows for customized back-to-school models from one board to another. “Wouldn’t it be easier to implement the same plan across the province.” The differences generate ongoing questions from parents as to “why” we aren’t implementing the same practices.

Talia Unger also expressed thoughts of not wanting the school year to go late into the summer should there be a delayed start date. With the need for critical mass numbers in mind, Information Technician Carmen White as well as high school teacher Sandra Parker shared that hundreds of parents/guardians had not completed the survey in each of their schools by the deadline, and when contacted Monday, more than half refused to decide.

Elementary school teacher Maria Vanelli noted that controlling lunchtime at the elementary level is easier because the students will continue to bring their lunch and remain in their classroom to eat. Conversely, at the high school level when the 180 minute morning class is over, the students are expected to head directly home for lunch, after which they will prepare for the virtual 120 minutes.

Though Director Miller offered last Friday that the school will provide guidance for the parents and students on maintaining social distancing, there is great opportunity without any policing of each student, for them to spend the afternoons any way they choose. Lunch stops at fast food locations and/or joining friends outside of their morning cohort is more than probable. It would seem from the meeting, that Director Miller has approached this unprecedented situation with the ideal that the school will be responsible for the education and the parents are ultimately responsible for the health care of their children.

PosterWhere secondary students eat their lunch, who they hang out with outside school property and whether a responsible daily self-assessment is being done isn’t reasonable for the school to manage, but the idea that it’ll all work out if precautions are taken within the classroom walls, and let parents worry about the rest, is simply a naive notion.

There is a faculty group that has been left out of conversation: Library Information Technicians. The libraries will be closed and there has been no direction on what the administration will delegate this group to do. Carmen White has decided to take a proactive approach and is creating work for herself in order to remain relevant in this ever-changing school plan.

Director Miller was also asked whether he’d consider changing the direction for K-3 students to wear masks which has become a great concern for parents and educators alike. His response was that they won’t be wearing them. He feels that because of the ages, the children would distract from learning by needing the attention of the teacher to manage the wearing of the masks. Other boards have mandated mask use for all grades. Educators Teresa Fisk and Sandra Parker would like to know the delivery timeline of the PPE masks.

Parent Mary Sawyer is happier about an option to change learning models in November, though she would have preferred an earlier option of switching in October. The option to switch from ‘distance learning’ to ‘in-person’ can pose considerable problems as pointed out during the Friday meeting. There are the logistics of increasing cohort sizes and repopulating classes with students who make a change. There are also transportation and locker changes to control movement of cohorts.

The student would have to be in an isolation classroom for 48 hours before integrating. How would the schools have a sufficient number of rooms available in relation to how many opt to change? If the desks are two metres apart, why would it matter if students sit two metres apart in an isolation room, or in the regular classroom? Extra staff is required to monitor and/or teach those in isolation. What about grade differences? It could present a logistical nightmare.

Parent Talia Unger approves of the outdoor learning concept that is being considered through immeasurable pressure by the parents. Plans are in discussion. Talia welcomes the idea of the children not having to be encumbered with masks during study because of the distraction, as well the concept of classes being held outdoors with all of the benefits that surround that idea. Some considerations for the Board are proper clothing during cooler weather and availability of naturalized playgrounds away from traditional apparatus, like monkey bars. The board agreed to allow funding for this. Unfortunately there just isn’t enough time to build playscapes.

Blackwell addressed one of EA teacher Teresa Fisk’s concerns about shuttling. There will be a seating plan, 24 kids on the bus at a time, less than half the capacity, and they will exit and enter in the same order. Routes will be no longer than 12 minutes in length (barring traffic and inclement weather delays). No supervision on the bus with one bus driver. Buses will be sanitized between each school drop off.

Secondary modelAfter the Board confirmed that they were going ahead with the ‘quadmester’ model in the secondary classes, Director Miller remarked that, “No model will satisfy everyone because feedback was very mixed. Parents prioritized different aspects of the options.” The Board agreed that this learning model met most public health requirements in protecting cohorts. For high school teacher Sandra Parker the quadmester is an agreeable option but has a concern shared by other teachers with regard to the timeline before the school start date of facilitating enough prepared lessons for the 180-minute virtual classes everyday in light of the fact none of the teachers currently know what they are teaching. There will be no handouts, no take home materials at all. All instruction will be virtual. An impossible task within a short period of time.

Patrice Henry is a single parent of a grade 10 student who has expressed a need for an electronic device for her son to use during virtual class time since she uses hers for work at home. Director Miller addressed this subject by confirming that there was no funding available for devices required. Each Principal will distribute at their own discretion from supply on hand. “Such sources have included the library supply”, noted Carmen White. Miller continued by adding that this shortage presented scheduling conflicts for classes requiring devices at the same time.

Kathy Duncan’s concern for the special ed students was briefly addressed by an indication that if demand warranted it, a study hall would be provided. This of course brings up needs for EAs among health & safety concerns.

The HDSB website will have a link available for today’s ‘Reopening School Virtual Information Session for Family’, at 7pm. Dr. Hamidah Meghani, Medical Officer of Health will be present. The Board is requesting that those attending with any questions for Dr. Meghani, fill out the form provided on the Board website prior to the meeting in order for the doctor to be prepared with the answers required.

Mila Vasquez is a married mother of two girls in elementary school. She has questions about students presenting symptoms and how they are treated. The Board expects all parents and students to self-assess every morning prior to school. Should a student present symptoms without any evidence of whether they have a cold or the virus, it is recommended that the student remain at home. A doctor’s note is then required before the return to school. She is also concerned, since one of her daughters is susceptible to colds and flu, the requirement of a frequent doctor’s note can become costly during the winter season. Carmen White added that for parents with a child who presents symptoms but are unsure as to whether it’s just a cold or not, might often choose to send their child anyway when considering the use of their own limited sick days as well as potentially jeopardizing their job if they stayed home with their child. There was no information on whether or not the sibling of an infected child needed to isolate as well.

In the first article of this series, Talia Unger mentioned concerns about the treatment of students who present symptoms, and/or return to school after self-isolating for a cold or the virus. The Board had a strong reaction to how serious they intend to monitor closely, stigmas that could arise as a result of kids returning after being absent due to illness. They will also spend time educating students with regard to stigmas around racism in association with the virus.

If you have health questions you’d like answered, make sure to fill out the form provided on the HDSB website prior to tonight’s meeting at 7pm.

Michele BogleMichele Bogle is a Burlington resident who writes for the Gazette on community issues. She has written several children’s books for ages 4-12, which can be found under the pseudonym, ‘Cameron S. Matthews’. Michele received her education in journalism from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Getting the students ready for a return to school in less than two weeks has created confusion, concern and fear in the minds of some

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

August 25th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Parents are concerned, somewhat confused and not at all certain what is going to happen when the schools are re-opened.

The Halton District School Board is holding a Town Hall meeting on Wednesday and will be doing everything they can to answer the questions parents have.

Miller in a huddle with Grebenc

Trustee Chair Andrea Grebenc with Director of Education Stuart Miller

The Director of Education will have his team of Superintendents on hand to get into the specifics.

This team has been at it since March – learning that the system was being shut down meant these Superintendents didn’t just have to pivot – they had to do a 180 and make something happen with little in the way of resources or prep.

Director of Education MIller put it very well when he said: “They didn’t teach us this in principal school”.

Each of the Superintendents has been given an area of responsibility. They have taken their years of experience as classroom teachers and the lessons they have learned as Superintendents and a got teacher in front of students even if it was via the internet.

Parents were upset, students didn’t know what was going to happen each day.

It took a bit of time but the technology to reach out and communicate was found and implemented.

Blackwell

Superintendent Terri Blackwell running lead for the secondary students,

Superintendent Terri Blackwell was assigned to the Secondary school problems and the challenges.

Superintendent Scot Podrebarac took on the elementary students.

Both worked tirelessly with the school principals to help them deal with the students and the parents. There were challenges everywhere and few in the way of easy answers.

Hunt Gibbons H&S

Julia Hunt Gibbons – crunched the numbers to determine what could and couldn’t be done.

Superintendent Julie Hunt Gibbons was the numbers person. What would work and what wouldn’t work. Hunt-Gibbons had to take the number of classes, the number of students and come up with options in terms of how the Board could create a schedule that would let the board create a class with 15 to 20 students. She didn’t do it with a slide rule.

When the province said that normal class sizes would prevail – Superintendents gave each other one of those Huh! looks and went back to the numbers.

How do you keep 30 grade 3 students six feet apart in a standard classroom size? Was that possible?

Supt Ruddick (sp)

Colette Ruddock – the heath of every student is her mission.

Superintendent Colette Ruddock is overseeing the relationship between the Board of Education and the Public Health Unit.

How will the Public Health people work with the schools – one on one? Who in a school makes the decisions? We were told that the Director of Education believes he has the authority to close a school.

We will learn going forward what Ruddock is going to do – we know now that she is the contact person with the Health people.

There are nurses being brought in by the province but the school boards don’t see the nurses as part of their staffing compliment.
How long can parents and students get on with their lives under these conditions? No one knows – there are really more unknowns than there are knowns.

The Toronto District School Board has been setting the pace in terms of talk back to the government. With the exception of the stiff letter the Halton Trustee Chair sent the Minister of Education.

screen-time-and-students-banner

This is what it all comes down to – a student in the hands of a good teacher.

Will the school start be later – September 15 is a date being thrown around. Will the return on the part of the students be staggered? A couple of grades one day and a few days later other grades will be added with everyone being in place by the end of the first week.

Gearing up for the day students enter a school is work enough. Behind the scenes there are people across the province giving serious consideration and actually working on what a virtual education system would look like.

If there is the much expected second wave, which will be harsher than the first wave, and everything goes back into lock down – what then?

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Halton Public School Board chair tells the Minister of Education 'he isn't helping'.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

August 24th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Reflecting the concern of parents across the province Chair of the Halton District Public School Board wrote the minister of Education to once again ask for some clarity on what the province expected of the school boards.

Using language that is seldom seen at this level the trustee wrote: “We can’t afford to get rental spaces, we have to arrange transportation and we have to do this within, what, two weeks?”

Grebenc

Andréa Grebenc: “Minister – words matter”

Andréa Grebenc, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Halton District School Board said what many have wanted to say:

“The Trustees of the Halton District School Board are greatly concerned and seeking clarification regarding a number of items that are critical for back to school planning and ensuring stability and confidence in public education. It is an understatement to note that there is heightened stress among all parties in the education sector and beyond due to the ongoing pressures and concern about COVID-19 and keeping everyone safe and healthy. While the health crisis evolves and demands flexibility, now is a time for collaboration and clarity of vision.

“In your August 13 announcement, there were several items that are concerning:

Students playing instruments

There will be no music classes as long as the virus is within the community and no vaccine.

The well-being of students, staff, families and the community is the highest priority. In your announcement, you noted that the Province’s Medical Officer of Health has signed off on the current return to school direction regarding existing class sizes in elementary.

You also stated that Boards have the choice to implement greater distancing (finding new spaces) and smaller class sizes than are in that guidance. This is highly confusing and puts our Board in a very difficult position. Elementary class sizes for elementary grades has been a source of broad contention with the Province’s return to school direction to Boards. The announcement created an expectation that would be nearly impossible to meet, particularly before September 8. In Halton, over 1200 new teachers would be required to lower elementary class sizes to 15, and additional space would need to be sourced and outfitted, transportation arranged, etc. In addition to a multitude of logistical challenges, and a lack of rental spaces in areas of need, it is anticipated that the cost to do so would be well in excess of the amount our Board could access from reserves.

Boards are able to utilize a portion of their own financial reserves to implement changes for the upcoming school year. In Halton, reserves have been built over a number of years and earmarked for other high need situations such as upgrading facilities, a home-grown solution to a lack of adequate funding sources for aging schools and administrative buildings.

It's not the kind of high school you were used to - MORE HERE

This kind of training isn’t going to be possible in September.

In the same announcement, you noted a $50M investment to upgrade/address HVAC systems across the province. While additional investment is appreciated, with 72 Boards in Ontario of varying sizes and needs, it is difficult to say how much would flow to each board. For context, to retrofit an older secondary school with a partial air conditioning system has cost in excess of $1M in the HDSB. Facilities staff have been working tirelessly during the summer months to upgrade and update these systems, and inference of lack of safety is not helpful.

Minister, you have spoken many times about working together. It is very challenging when these announcements come with no advance notice, and Boards hear about them at the same time as thousands of concerned citizens of Ontario who, in turn, expect school boards to have answers. These announcements may trigger complex revision processes that often require additional direction from the Ministry which may or may not come in short order. You have also mentioned “scaling up” a number of times, inferring that other announcements could be coming. Systems and people are under great pressure. At this time, staff need to focus on implementing plans for return to school in just over two weeks.

Students doing survey

Students are going to be deprived of most of the extracurricular activity.

Staff and students of Ontario school boards should be focussing on a safe return to school, and establishing the new learning and health and safety protocols that the COVID-19 pandemic requires. Overlaying this with new curricula (such as elementary math) complicates these processes and draws energy from where it is needed most. As such, the Trustees of the Halton District School Board are adding our voice to the many letters you’ve received requesting that full implementation of the new math curriculum be delayed, in favour of a measured transition with adequate preparation time for staff.

Minister, words matter. This is not a time for finger pointing. All Boards, and the communities they serve are different, and plans have been developed to reflect those unique restraints and needs. We are asking for consistency and clarity of vision so that all resources can be focussed on implementing back to school plans. The Trustees of the Halton District School Board look forward to actively collaborating with the Ministry of Education to help make the school year safe for students and staff so that students can learn, grow and succeed.

It doesn’t get more direct than that,  Good on the Chair for telling it like it is.

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Public Board of Education to hold virtual Town Hall on Wednesday.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

August 23rd, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

When will schools open in September?

Group of students MMR

Gatherings like this inside a school will be possible IF all the students are in the same cohort.

The planned date was September 8th, 2020  but there are so many concerns over the number of students there are to be in classrooms – especially at the elementary level; the province is saying that standard class sizes are the rule and parents arenpushing back really hard saying they want no more than 15 students in classrooms.

The Toronto Public School Board is looking at smaller classes as well as a start date of September 15th and staggering the begin date.

Parents are concerned.  The school boards have to plan for whatever shows up on the day school starts and in many cases the school boards don’t know what a majority of the parents plan to do.

School buses

How many students will be allowed in each bus? Who will supervise the students while they are on the bus?

Will they keep their children at home and home-school them?  Will they form a pod with other parents and hire a teacher to run the classes?  Will the parents opt for having their children taught at home – on-line with the services the Board will provide or will they send their children to school.  If they choose the later – how will they get to school?  No one is certain just what the school buses are going to be able to handle.

On top of all this there is the issue of face masks.

Teachers will be decked out in full PPE gear – they may look like  visitors from some other planet.

It is going to be stressful on the younger students.

Students at Lincoln Centennial public school. Ontario school boards are struggling to find low-cost options to school additions to accommodate full-day kindergarten. Some options may include bussing kids. Reading are Heyley Ta and Zeynep Coskan-Johnson. Feb 21 2013. Bob TYmczyszyn/St. Catharines Standard/QMI AGENCY

No carpets on the floor; no soft cuddly toys, no sandbox and maybe masks.

Kindergarten, both junior and Senior is going to be really different.

No carpets on the floor.  Masks required – maybe.  No soft cloth or other covering toys, no sand box.

On Wednesday the Halton District School Board will be holding a virtual Town Hall that parents can call into and ask questions.

The Halton Medical Officer of Health will be part of the panel that will include the Director of Education and the senior superintendents that have been developing different scenarios to handle every possible situation they can think of – right up to shutting a school down if there is an outbreak

There is a very nervous parent community out there that does not feel they have the information, and assurance they need, to know that their children will be safe.

Grebenc

HDSB Trustee chair Grebenc – has become much more assertive.

The Halton District School board spent a long virtual trustee meeting last week and decided they would not make a decision on the wearing of masks in the classroom at every grade level  – they left that decision for another day.  They may not get to make that decision – there are rumblings that the province will mandate something.

The Gazette brought Michele Bogle in to create a group of parents who are serving as a sounding board.  Michelle will write as often as necessary with feedback from her group representing both levels – high school and elementary.  If you want to take part – email Michelle at bogle@bgzt.ca

There is a link to her first sounding board report below.

The Gazette will be monitoring the virtual Town Talk and reporting on that.

Related news story:

Parents voice their concerns about sending their children back to school.

 

 

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Be aware - be alert. Stay safe.

News 100 yellowBy Staff

August 21st, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Halton District School Board prepared this poster and would like every household sending students to school to tape it to the wall close to the door.

Every student should glance at the poster, run the questions through their mind and if there is a hint of a yes to any of the questions they should speak to their parents.

The is how we catch the COVID-19 virus before it catches us.

Be aware – be alert. Copy poster to memory stick – take it to Staples have them to print an 11×17 copy

Poster

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Learning outdoors planned for Halton schools: Report on when and how due late September.

News 100 yellowBy Staff

August 19, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Halton District School Board is thinking very seriously about Outdoor Learning for as many schools as possible.

Outdoor learning photo

Is this what they are thinking about?

They aren’t talking about just the nice Indian Summer weather we get.

Trustees have asked for a report on what can be done and what might the cost be.

There is $200,000 in the kitty for this type of thing along with some COVID-19 specific funding.

Will the mitts the kids have to wear be covered in that funding?

Report will be ready for late September.

All the trustees were on for this.

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Trustees and School Board Administration debating in a private session

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

August 19th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

HDSB graphic

The trustees have been in this private session for at least more than an hour.

The Halton District School Board has been in a private session for well over an hour.

Not healthy.

Parents want information.

The Board administration has most of the information and will put forward proposals for opening up the schools in September.

The conversations and debate taking place behind closed doors is conversations and debate that should be public.

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Classrooms are going to have a new and much different look when your child returns in September.

News 100 blueBy Michele Bogle

August 19th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Over the next few weeks I will be sharing the opinions and concerns of a group of Burlington parents in an on-going series of articles. While you read this and the other parts to this series, I ask, “Do you share these same concerns? Would you like your voice heard?” Chime in, discuss, share; give those making decisions on your behalf another opportunity to hear you.

To start, all three of my children have attended the public school system in Burlington, elementary through high school. They are now at college or university or have moved on into the world of commerce.

Parents know what it costs to keep their children in these classrooms - now they know what it costs to keep the principals in the schools. Too much?

How many of these desks will be filled in September?

There are so many aspects of the move back into the classroom to discuss. Let’s meet the wonderful parents who connected with me through various Burlington Facebook groups to offer their thoughts, concerns and questions. We’ll dig deeper into this subject over the next few weeks. Here are just some of the issues that you may not have thought about.

The names of the people cooperating with me are not real, I have chosen to use aliases for all of them; but let me assure you – they are very real people.

Mary Sawyer and her husband work full time outside their home and have two elementary aged children. With the uncertainty of how successful the entrance back to school is, she wishes that the HDSB allowed for the option to have her children start in Sept, but then opt for Oct – March remote learning as Hamilton schools have this option. Why are the boards not sharing the same models?

Kathy Duncan is a special education teacher who wants to know what the government plans to do for these students. Discussion about children with special needs have been largely left out of any guidelines thus far. Virtual classrooms would be near impossible to coordinate as well as impractical.

Burlington Transit Youth Ambassadors gather in a bus shelter. Front row: YAs Benoit, Shaan, Billi and Harrison. Back row, BT’s Sandra Maxwell, YA Kayla and Burlington Green advisor Kale.

Burlington Transit Youth Ambassadors gather in a bus shelter. Front row: Yas Benoit, Shaan, Billi and Harrison. Back row, BT’s Sandra Maxwell, YA Kayla and Burlington Green advisor Kale Black. Will they be able to take on tasks like this during the school year?

Sandra Parker, a Burlington high school teacher and mother of two high school students would really like a decision made with regard to which of the three presented teaching options to prepare for with just three weeks left before the start of school. Currently the plan is for two cohorts with rotating period classes or, two subjects a day for five weeks then on to the next subject. This would provide the students with a more in depth understanding of the material without interruption. The third option would be homeschooling.

Jeremy and Talia Unger are parents to two children, grades 5 and 8. They will be signing the ‘Intent to Return’ form for their kids. One of their concerns is about the mental well-being of their children. “Socialization is a critical part of their development. Not being able to see their friends, in person, at any time during the day can be distracting as well as distressing.” Safety is of course their first priority.

Susan Grimsby teaches elementary aged kids. While she’s eager to return to class, she has definite concerns about the precautions in place. Who’s policing the policies within the school grounds? In maintaining distance between students, how much anxiety is being created?

students-3

The emotional health and well being of students at every level is a real concern. Will it get the attention it needs?

Theresa Fisk is an EA with one child in high school and another in elementary school. She is concerned with the management of the cohorts and identified a handful of opportunities for expanding cohorts. There are special needs children who also use the before-and-after school program. Due to the shortage of classrooms, many of the same rooms will be used in the course of the day. In the morning, regular class begins the moment after the before-school-program kids leave the room, leaving the classroom unsanitized for the next group.

During the after-school sessions, when there is only a handful of one age group left in one of the rooms, they condense the kids into fewer rooms, thus creating another mixed cohort. The duration of time that students are on the school bus is typically 45 minutes with poor air circulation. Theresa would love to have a staggered entry, giving time for sanitation. As well for the grade 1-3 children to wear masks.

Students at tree dedication

Are outdoor classes a possibility?

Maria Vanelli is also an elementary school teacher and speaks out about the $50 million provided to improve air quality, better ventilation in the classrooms. Maria tells me that the idea comes too late to implement in time. Her husband is a contractor and from first-hand experience informs her that the HVAC systems take six months to order, then add installation time.

Library Information Technician, Carmen White touched on, among many other items, the math. If class sizes are to be cut in half to allow for safer student numbers such as 15 per class, the reserve fund doesn’t adequately cover the number of teachers needed. Even with funding in place, space is still an immutable variable.

Each of these sets of parents and educators have concerns about very different pieces of this problem impacted by regional policies from the HDSB. Provinces are beginning to change their ideas through pressure from administrators, educators and the public. One thing everyone agreed on is that the answer isn’t to stay home, nor is it safe enough for their kids to return to school yet.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on going back to the classroom. You can reach me by email – bogle@bgzt.ca

Michele BogleMichele Bogle is a Burlington resident who writes for the Gazette on community issues.  She has written several children’s books for ages 4-12, which can be found under the pseudonym, ‘Cameron S. Matthews’. Michele received her education in journalism from the University of Pennsylvania.

 

 

 

 

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School Board to Hold Virtual Town Hall - question is 'when'?

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

August 18th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Halton District School Board is planning on holding a virtual Town Hall meeting to bring parents up to date on September school opening.

HDSB sign and benchThe intention was to hold the event Thursday or Friday of this week but HDSB officials said “we just don’t have enough information from the Ministry and hope to do the Town Hall virtually next week.”

In a telling quote, an Official who asked not to be identified said: “The sands are shifting.”

School Boards across the province have been struggling to deliver on the directions the province has given them.

Parents are not happy with the options they have, school boards have found that they are not getting the opportunity to use the resources they have to deal with the challenge they face.

They were told just days ago that they can tap into their financial reserves; HDSB has $40 million that they need government permission to spend. They have been given permission to spend $6 million on PPE.

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School Board faces challenges it has never had to deal with before - parents are apprehensive about sending their children back to school at this point.

News 100 greenBy Pepper Parr

August 17th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Stuart Miller H&S

Director of Education for the Halton District School Board (HDSB), Stuart Miller

The Director of Education for the Halton District School Board (HDSB), Stuart Miller, is hunkered down with his staff at the Education Centre on Guelph Line in Burlington, taking part in a meeting that has them all in the same large room.

This is a group that will be very strict in the way people in the room social distance and wear masks.

They are there to figure out how they can handle the opening of the schools on September 8th.

It is not going to be an easy task.

The province has set out requirements that many feel are just plain wrong – but school boards have to do what the Ministry tells them to do.

The government wants students back in classroom and has directed that elementary schools operate just the way they did before the schools were closed in March.

Secondary students will spend some time in a classroom and some time working from their homes being taught synchronically by their teacher who will be in the school.

Last week the Board of Education sent a note to every parent asking what they planned to do with their children: were they going to have them attend classes or were they going to keep them at home?

As of last Thursday just over 50% of the parents had responded. The responses were supposed to have been returned by last Friday – that deadline has been extended.

istem Cafeteria-crowd-Nov-2018-768x371

When parents have questions they show up in droves with their hands in the air. This parents meeting took place at Aldershot High school when the iStem program was announced.

Directors of Education across the province are close to being totally fed up by the way the Ministry of Education is handling the delivery of education to students.

Of the 50% that did respond 81% of the parents of elementary students said they would return; 86% of the secondary parents said their children would return.

There are roughly 45,000 elementary school students being taught by the HDSB and roughly 19,000 secondary students.

The 50% of the parents that answered the survey as soon as they got it were pretty sure as to what they wanted to do – it is reasonable to assume that the other 50% were not certain.

If you do the math – you get a sense as to the size of the problem the HDSB administration is up against.

To get some sense as to what teachers are going to have to deal with. There are elementary schools in the system that have enrollments of 1200 students – Oakville and Milton have elementary schools that big.

Blackwell

Superintendent Terri Blackwell has led the development of the program for secondary school students during the pandemic.

Scott P - close up

Scott Podrebarac has led the program for elementary school students. Both Podrebarac and Blackwell are supported by a team of senior people

How does one keep the required control over 1,200 students – ensuring that they are wearing masks; ensuring that they stay within their cohort, ensuring that they don’t mix with students from other cohorts?

The HDSB has had a schedule of the condition of the HVAC systems in every school in the Region.

More than four months ago HDSB asked for permission to use some of the $40 million in the Board’s Reserve Fund account to upgrade the HVAC systems. They didn’t get a response; they were told that they could allocate $6 million from the reserve fund account to purchase the PPE supplies that would be needed.

Some school Boards, Toronto in particular, are pushing the province to permit staggered classroom openings. Nothing positive yet from the province.

The Province also said that 500 nurses were going to be hired and made available to the school districts. Nothing yet on who will be overseeing those nurses and how they will interact with the individual schools.

Will those nurses be assigned to specific schools or will they be assigned to the Public Health unit they are within?

What will a school do if they find they have an infected student? Close the class and send everyone home for 14 days or shutdown the whole school?

How will busing students to school be handled? Will there be enough drivers?

Miller expects today’s meeting to last all day and points out that most of his staff have worked every weekend since the lockdown took place in March. “This is a tremendous administrative task” adding that “there are more questions than answers – we are going to have to make things up on a daily basis. It is going to be a challenge.”

The trustees will meet for a virtual meeting on Wednesday.

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Province sets out what is expected of Boards of Education - Remote, Synchronous learning and Asynchronous learning.

News 100 blueBy Staff

August 14th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

For those who want to get deeply into the weeds on just what the province is telling the school boards what they are required to do the Memorandum from the Ministry to the Boards wiill be interesting.

Purpose

The Ministry of Education is committed to ensuring that students1 across Ontario receive a consistent approach to remote learning in times of extended interruption to conventional in-person learning, such as when public health emergencies, pandemics, natural disasters, or other unplanned events force the closure of classrooms or schools.

This memorandum provides direction to school boards2 on remote learning requirements, including implementation and reporting. This memorandum also identifies effective practices that school boards should develop to support students during remote learning.

Classroom - young kids

Classes like this will be difficult to hold.

During full or partial school closures, or under any other periods of remote learning, it is crucial to keep students engaged in their learning. Students should have access to a school community, a support network, and authentic educational experiences in order to continue to progress in their learning.

This memorandum must be implemented in alignment with collective agreements. Where there is a conflict between the memorandum and a collective agreement, the collective agreement must prevail.
Definitions of “Remote”, “Synchronous”, and “Asynchronous” Learning

In the context of this memorandum, “remote learning”, “synchronous learning”, and “asynchronous learning” mean the following:

Remote learning: Learning that occurs when classes are taught at a distance and when students and educators are not in a conventional classroom setting. Remote learning takes place in times of extended interruption to in-person learning – for example, as a result of a pandemic or natural disaster. Classes can be synchronous or asynchronous and can be taught online through a Learning Management System (LMS) or by using videoconferencing tools. In some cases, they may be delivered through emails, print materials, broadcast media, or telephone calls.

Synchronous learning: Learning that happens in real time. Synchronous learning involves using text, video, or voice communication in a way that enables educators and other members of the school- or board-based team to instruct and connect with students in real time. Synchronous learning supports the well-being and academic achievement of all students, including students with special education needs, by providing educators and students with an interactive and engaging way to learn. It helps teachers provide immediate feedback to students and enables students to interact with one another.

Asynchronous learning: Learning that is not delivered in real time. Asynchronous learning may involve students watching pre-recorded video lessons, completing assigned tasks, or contributing to online discussion boards.
Remote Learning Requirements for School Boards

It's not the kind of high school you were used to - MORE HERE

Classes like this won’t take place as long as the pandemic is with us.

 

2. Minimum Requirements for Synchronous Learning

During periods of remote learning where students are at home for more than three days in a given week, boards must ensure that students are provided with synchronous learning. The minimum requirements for synchronous learning help to ensure that students have access to both synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities.

The scheduled synchronous learning sessions must be communicated to parents and students. Educators should use their professional judgement to provide some flexibility to students on an individual basis when students are unable to participate in synchronous learning.

The table below outlines the minimum amount of time per day that students, depending on their grade level, must be provided with synchronous learning as part of their scheduled or timetabled learning.

Division Grade Level of Students Daily Minimum Synchronous Learning Time Requirement*

Elementary Kindergarten 180 minutes
Grades 1 to 3   225 minutes
Grades 4 to 8   225 minutes
Secondary Grades 9 to 12 The higher of 60 minutes for each 75-minute class period** or 225 minutes per day for a full course schedule

* This is in addition to asynchronous learning time.
** The synchronous learning time requirement for any period that is not 75 minutes should be adjusted to reflect this ratio.

The synchronous learning time requirements outlined in the table above may be divided into shorter periods throughout the school day. For example, a child in Kindergarten may participate in an opening exercise for 10 minutes with their whole class, as well as a combination of whole-group and small-group sessions throughout the school day, and a 10-minute closing exercise with their class at the end of the school day.

It is expected that synchronous learning will be provided for large and small groups of students each day, in a manner similar to in-person classroom teaching. Synchronous learning time may include students working independently and in small groups while engaged in a virtual classroom with the teacher overseeing their learning and available for questions. The synchronous learning requirements are a part of the 300-minute instructional day during which teachers remain available to students as per the previous section “Minimum Requirements for Engaging Students during Remote Learning.”

Additional group meetings may take place between educators and students as needed to address specific learning needs. Where students are able to attend in-person classes and also participate in remote learning, school boards should plan, where possible, to assign different educators to facilitate both formats of instruction. This will ensure that students are engaged in their learning with appropriate levels of support.

3. Process for Exemption from Synchronous Learning

School boards must allow for students to be exempted from the minimum requirements for synchronous learning stated above, on an individual basis.

School boards must develop a process to obtain and acknowledge the receipt of exemption forms. Requests for an exemption must be made in writing. Exemption from synchronous learning may be requested by parents or by students who are 18 years of age or older, and students who are 16 or 17 years of age but have withdrawn from parental control.

Boys with clarinets

Social for sure – but no distancing. School is not going to be the same.

To support meaningful access to education, alternative learning approaches must be put in place for all exempted students – for example, correspondence, print, or broadcast media instruction that is based on the individual student’s needs and circumstances. Additional supports for parents should also be considered. Exempted students must be provided with a daily schedule or timetable in accordance with the 300-minute instructional day.

4. Protocols for Delivering Remote Learning

School boards must ensure that the delivery of remote learning includes the following elements:

Communication Processes

School boards must inform students and parents about remote learning requirements, including the process for exemption from synchronous learning, and expectations for student attendance and engagement.
School boards should clearly communicate a process whereby parents can inform the school of any issues that their child may be experiencing with remote learning, and provide steps that parents may take to resolve any issues.
Teachers should communicate with the principal, students, and parents a regular schedule of synchronous learning sessions that fulfills the minimum time requirements, as part of their remote learning timetable. Teachers should accommodate parents who request a meeting through other modes (e.g., by telephone, through a virtual platform) when an in-person meeting is not possible.

Differentiated Assessment and Instruction

Teachers should provide daily opportunities for each student to receive meaningful feedback.

The policy outlined in Growing Success: Assessment, Evaluation, and Reporting in Ontario Schools, 2010 continues to apply during periods of remote learning and teachers should employ assessment for, as, and of learning (including diagnostic, formative, and summative assessment), as required.

Teachers should provide differentiated support to all students, including English and French Language Learners, and students with special education needs who have an Individual Education Plan (IEP).

Supporting Students with Special Education Needs

Where appropriate, educators should provide more opportunities than the minimum requirements for synchronous learning for students with special education needs, based on their individual strengths and needs, and provide differentiated support and instruction.

Educators should continue to provide accommodations, modified expectations, and alternative programming to students with special education needs, as detailed in their IEPs. If it is not possible to meet a student’s needs through synchronous learning, educators and families will work together to find solutions.

School boards are encouraged to provide continued access to assistive technology, including Special Equipment Amount (SEA) equipment, where possible, to support students with special education needs as they participate in remote learning. In situations where access to assistive technology is not feasible, educators are expected to work with students and parents to determine workable solutions on an individual basis.

Student Attendance and Safety

Student attendance must be taken daily at the elementary level and per course at the secondary level. Principals must ensure that student attendance records are submitted and that a staff member is assigned to contact parents in the case of an unexpected absence, in accordance with school and board attendance protocols.
In cases where a student is unable to participate in a synchronous learning session – for example, their device may be shared with a parent in the home – teachers should be informed, and they should make curriculum and assessment accommodations on an individual basis.

Boards may review how attendance counsellors could be used to further support student attendance, engagement, and well-being.

Boards must ensure that teachers follow school board-established procedures related to online safety, privacy, and cyber security.

5. Access to Remote Learning Devices – such as Laptops or Tablets – and the Internet

School boards must work collaboratively with parents to ensure that all students have access to remote learning devices and the Internet during remote learning. School boards are expected to provide remote learning devices and Internet connectivity to students who do not otherwise have access to them, and to develop policies on how these resources will be allocated on an equitable basis.

In situations where students do not have access to remote learning devices or the Internet, and a school board is unable to provide this support, school boards should have a process in place to work collaboratively with students and parents to establish alternative arrangements on an individual basis.

School boards should also consider how to support students in Education and Community Partnership Programs (ECPPs), including students in youth justice ECPPs, where access to the Internet may not be available or may be restricted due to a court order.

Teachers should work from a school or board facility during remote learning, where possible, with reasonable accommodations if required. If this is not possible, teachers should maintain regular communication with the principal. School boards should support educators in accessing remote learning devices and tools to support remote and synchronous instruction.
6. Standardized Suite of Synchronous Learning Platforms

School boards must provide teachers with a standardized suite of synchronous learning platforms to ensure that students have a consistent learning experience, and provide teachers with training on these platforms. The platforms will allow real-time communication between educators, students, and parents during remote learning.

Synchronous learning platforms should include live video, audio, and chat features and be fully accessible. To support student safety and well-being, school boards should consider providing a tool that allows educators to control student microphones and cameras. School boards may also wish to consider synchronous learning platforms that include virtual whiteboards, recording features, participant polling features, and file uploading and sharing features.

7. Cyber Security, Privacy, and Online Safety

Ensuring the protection of privacy and the cyber security of educators, students, and parents is paramount to supporting a safe and inclusive learning environment for remote learning.

School boards must review their cyber security and privacy policies, and develop updates related to remote learning. These policies must include clear protocols and procedures for educators to follow so that they can ensure student safety and security during remote learning. These protocols must be clearly communicated to educators, students, and parents.

Board protocols should ensure that students and educators do not share passwords, that student initials are used for account creation instead of full names, that teachers are the last ones to leave synchronous learning sessions, and that students and teachers are aware of and respect board policies regarding digital conduct and privacy.

School boards should provide professional resources to all school staff to increase cyber security awareness.
Effective Practices

To support students and educators during periods of remote learning, school boards should develop effective practices, including:

providing technical support for remote learning
providing educator training
using standardized platforms
setting out roles and responsibilities

1. Providing Technical Support for Remote Learning

School boards should provide technical support to educators, students, and parents for the use of board-provided devices and access to the Internet during remote learning.

Technical support should be responsive to immediate needs. It should assist users who have specific technological problems and questions. In the context of remote learning, technical support should span the full spectrum of users’ technological needs, including devices, connectivity, security, and digital learning tools and applications.

Board staff, educators, students, and parents should know where to seek help when they encounter technical issues during remote learning. School boards should provide clear information on who can provide help (e.g., board staff, service providers), and how users can access that help (e.g., by email, telephone).

2. Providing Educator Training

Educators should have access to subject- and division-specific training to support remote learning.

School boards should deliver remote learning strategies and educator training related to:

student and staff safety;
student and parent comfort levels with technology, and the levels of support that may be required;
effective use of digital tools;
effective pedagogy and assessment;
student and staff mental health and well-being;
accessibility and differentiated instruction for all students, including students with special education needs.

3. Using Standardized Platforms

Educators should use board-approved synchronous learning platforms that are fully accessible.

Principals should ensure that educators have access to a suite of appropriate technology products, tools, and resources to support the delivery of remote learning. To ensure that students have a consistent learning experience, the maximum number of synchronous learning platforms used within a school should be three, where possible.
4. Setting Out Roles and Responsibilities

School boards should consider the rights and responsibilities of students, parents, teachers, educational assistants, early childhood educators, and other school and board staff during remote learning.

Teachers are expected to carry out the instructional duties assigned to them by their principals and to comply with all professional standards and obligations under the Education Act and the Ontario College of Teachers Act, 1996. These include having responsibility for the effective instruction and evaluation of the progress of students in the subjects and classes assigned by the principal (including by electronic means), preparing and submitting lesson plans to the principal, and communicating regularly with parents.

Technology Enabled Learning and Teaching (TELT) contacts at each school board can play an active role in supporting communication of the policy, educator training, and implementation of remote and synchronous learning. For example, they can support the use of the ministry’s Virtual Learning Environment, which provides educators with training related to digital learning tools.
Implementation

School boards must ensure that the requirements outlined in this memorandum are implemented by the beginning of the 2020-21 school year.

School boards are encouraged to consider local needs and circumstances, and to consult with local partners in their implementation of remote learning. In the French-language education system, the implementation of remote and synchronous learning should take into account Ontario’s aménagement linguistique policy and support the vitality of the French-language culture in a minority setting.
Monitoring and Evaluation

School boards are required to report at the end of the school year on their activities to fulfill the direction outlined in this memorandum.

School boards are expected to develop and implement a process for regular data collection, and to collect data related, but not limited, to:

areas in which educators require additional support in implementing remote learning, including providing student and educator access to technology and the Internet;

strategies to provide training related to the identified areas of need, including learning and well-being;
details of implementation progress and monitoring activities, including the number of exemptions from synchronous learning and what alternative approaches were used;

parent and student feedback on the impact of remote learning, including:

level of student engagement in learning;

ease of online learning participation;

access to teachers;

ease and access to technology;

information on how parent and student feedback is being taken into account in the delivery of remote learning.

Data covering the school year must be provided to the ministry no later than July 31 of each year in which there are periods of remote learning.

School boards are expected to make adjustments to their implementation of the requirements in this memorandum based on parent, student, and staff feedback collected throughout the school year.

Upon request of the ministry, school boards may be required to report on the following data during the school year:

for any given calendar month, the number of students engaged in remote learning;
for any given calendar month, the number of students provided with the minimum requirements for synchronous learning;
for any given calendar month, the number of students exempted from the minimum requirements for synchronous learning.

1 In this memorandum, unless otherwise stated, student(s) includes children in Kindergarten and students in Grades 1 to 12.
2 In this memorandum school board(s) and board(s) refer to district school boards, school authorities, and Provincial and Demonstration Schools (including the schools operated by the Centre Jules-Léger Consortium).
3 In this memorandum, parent(s) refers to parent(s) and guardian(s).

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HDSB gets ready for the return of students in September - how many will actually show up is not clear

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

August 11th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It was the end of a long week – with the week ahead not looking all that much better.

miller-stuart-online

Director of Education Stuart Miller is being pressed on all sides – the situation he faces is far more challenging that the closure of two high schools.

Stuart Miller and his team are bushed. They have been given their marching orders by the province; they now have to make it happen with what they have.

Every elementary student will be in their home classroom – teachers will come to them; the students will take recess and lunch together and not mix or mingle with other students. In some grades they will be asked to wear masks.

There are likely to be some classes that will have in excess of 25 students – some report that there will be classes with 30 students – when you add the teacher and the EA that is a pretty full room making it difficult to stick to the six foot apart rule.

It is going to be a challenge to keep the different classes apart come recess and lunch – a scheduling nightmare.

The secondary students will do a day in a classroom – just 15 in the class, the following day they will work from hone on-line where they will be taught synchronously by their teacher.

Parents who are concerned about the safety of their children, teachers who are apprehensive and an HR department that needs to make sure they have access to supply teachers who may have to replace classroom teachers who decide they do not want to be in classrooms.

Cleaners - schools

The clean ups at every school will be very through and very frequent.

Custodial people have to be hired as well.

The teachers were sent a 79 page document setting out the way the school board administration expects things to work in a situation that is both dynamic and fluid.

Parents will be getting a document with much of the same information on Monday and are asked to let the Board of Education know what they plan to do with their children.

“Some parents won’t get back to us” said Miller. “We will have principals at the schools calling those parents to find out what they want to do.

“We also have number of households who have more than one student going to high school. That will mean each student having access to a laptop computer which for some families may not be in their budget.

The Board will ensure that everyone has what they need to be able to take part on those half days when high school students are being taught synchronously as a class on-line.

There will also be some students who will attend a class within the school due to limitations they have with on-line learning.

The teachers doing the online teaching will do so from the schools – perhaps not from the actual classroom but their base will be the school.

Nelson High crest

The upgrade at Nelson high school meant to accommodate the students transferring out of Bateman has been delayed – keeping students in their old school.

Delays at Nelson high school where additions are underway to accommodate the transfer of students from Bateman high school to Nelson – with Bateman to be closed at some future date – will be delayed due to construction issues that resulted from the shutdown of the site when a worker was tested positive.

The province has budgeted for some 500 nurses who will be available to schools. With 105 schools in the Region and 44 School Districts in the province those nurses are going to be stretched pretty thin.

Exactly what the nurses are going to do is not clear. What is clear to Miller is that he has an excellent working relationship with the Medical Officer of Health, (MOH) Dr Hamid Megani. All the bases will be covered.

The overriding concern is having a procedure in place for those schools where a hot spot turns up. The Board wants to be able to move quickly and isolate any outbreak and ensure that if there is one it is limited to a classroom and not school.

Everyone is working full out on ensuring that they get it right the first time.

Miller, who has been an educator for more than 35 years, said that what he is going through now “is not something they taught us in principal school.”

School buses

How many students in each bus – are there enough buses?

Getting the students to school is another challenge that is being worked on. How many children will be permitted on each bus – will there be enough bus drivers. And how will the bus routes and schedules be worked out. The service is operated by an arm’s length operation that serves both the Separate and Public Boards.

In the past few weeks the number of new infections in the Region have been low – 0 in some days and the MOH has been able to move very quickly tracing who the infected person has met with. That same dexterity will be used to track the students.

miller-prep-at-central

Director of Education Stuart Miller facing the biggest challenge of his career – making sure the students he is responsible for educating are safe.

There are dozens of pinch points – the school board administrators believe they have identified all of them but the words “fluid” and “dynamic” are used to describe everything they have to deal with.

There are a lot of “not sure” statements being made. A lot of trepidation on the part of parents, teachers and board administrators.

The public isn’t hearing a word from the trustees.

If the infections in each municipality can be kept low that should be reflected in the school environment.

What happens when parents who have worked from home begin returning to their offices and the colder weather becomes part of everyday life?

We are going to have to cross that bridge when we come to it.

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Liberal Party Leader takes another swing at the Premier over school opening

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

August 4th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

He may not have a seat in the Legislature but Steven Del Duca, Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, is playing political hardball and using the returning students to school issue as the baseball bat with which he is battering the Premier.

Last week he put forward a plan to get the schools opened opened in September that put student safety at the top of the list.

This week he is calling what the province announced on Thursday as the Premier’s “half-baked plan to reopen schools” which Del Duca claims “is nothing short of a catastrophe for parents, students, and teachers. The plan falls short of even the basic standards set out by Sick Kids and blatantly ignores recommendations from school boards, teachers, education workers, healthcare associations, and parents.

“Parents in Halton have been waiting anxiously for a plan to reopen schools safely – Doug Ford gave them one written on the back of a napkin,” said Del Duca. “None of the concerns parents raised have been addressed. None.”

Doug Ford’s school reopening plan gets a failing grade on every measure. The SickKids’ report, released last week, makes it clear that a proper plan must include smaller class sizes and a significant amount of new caretakers (custodians and cleaning staff).

“The Ontario Liberal Party took this advice seriously and, in consultation with experts in health care and education, released their Plan to Help Our Students last week.

Steven Del Duca

Steven Del Duca, Leader of the Liberal Party in Ontario

“To reopen safely, the Liberal plan would fund 650 new classrooms in Halton, which are necessary to allow for physical distancing. Under Doug Ford’s Conservatives, there will be no new spaces at all.

“The Liberal plan would also support 710 new teaching positions in Halton to help keep class sizes small. Doug Ford’s plan only supports 14.

“To keep classes and schools clean, the Liberal plan would also create 320 new caretaker positions in Halton. The Conservatives will only create 36. That’s about 1 for every 3 schools.

Miller engaging a prent at Central - ugly

Director of Education Stuart Miller facing an irate parents during the Central School closing issue. Central prevailed and is still open.

Del Duca adds that: “This plan continues to make it clear that Doug Ford is treating our students, their parents and everyone involved in the public education system as an afterthought. What Doug Ford gave us isn’t a plan to safely reopen schools – what he gave us was irresponsible. It doesn’t provide the smaller class sizes we need or enough resources to keep schools clean. It’s a dangerous roll of the dice with our kids’ safety.”

What Del Duca doesn’t include in his plan is where is anyone going to find the 650 classrooms that he maintains are needed. The space just doesn’t exist. As for the number of teachers – the Halton Board does not as yet know how many of the existing teachers are going to opt to return to a classroom.

Halton District School Board Director of Education Stuart Miller is surveying the teacher compliment to determine how many are not prepared to go into classrooms. Miller has said that he believes there are enough supply teachers who will teach in classrooms.

 

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Confusion and apprehension as parents begin to think what they want to do with their children when school opens in September

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

August 3rd, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

A report published in the Washington Post (certainly a reputable news source) told of a summer camp in the State of Georgia where:

“Some 260 campers and staff tested positive out of 344 test results available.

“Among those ages 6-10, 51 percent got the virus; from 11-17 years old, 44 percent, and 18-21 years old, 33 percent. The campers did a lot of singing and shouting; did not wear face masks; windows were not opened for ventilation, although other precautions were taken.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that the virus “spread efficiently in a youth-centric overnight setting, resulting in high attack rates among persons in all age groups,” many showing no symptoms.”

It is happening and it is something that needs to be heeded.

Later this month the Halton District School Board will have something to say to the parents who send their children to the 105 schools in the Region.

Stuart Miller

Halton District School Board Director of Education Stuart Miller. Facing the biggest challenge ever as an educator.

All elementary students will attend classes five days a week. The students will stay in the classroom; teachers will move from classroom to classroom.

The students in each class will stay as a group during recess and lunch. It is not clear yet if teachers will be required to wear PPE.

Grades 4 to 12 will be required to wear masks in the classroom

Also not clear yet is how the school bus service will operate.

The province set out the rules: Elementary students in class five days a week; secondary students will be in classes half of each day. The second half will be done at home and on line.

The Gazette asked the Director of Education for a comment on the provincial decision and told us that they did not yet have the technical requirements from the province. That technical data was public on Friday.

The school board administration will be sending a survey to parents to learn what each family plans to do now that the rules from the province are clear.

There will be a lot of questions from the parents.

Senior school board staff worked hard to put together data for their presentation to Ministry of Education officials on Tuesday of last week where they had to explain how they would handle the three scenarios the province defined:

Full time classes – both elementary and secondary

All teaching done remotely

An Alternative approach that is a combination of the other two scenarios.

Many people were surprised when the province opted for opening up the existing classrooms for elementary students – some of those classes have 30 students.

These are trying days for parents, for the school board administrators who have to manage what is going to be a major challenge and for trustees who are not prepared for the onslaught of public complaints that will directed to them.

It is a situation that has to be closely monitored.

  • Students in grade 4-12 will be required to wear masks with exceptions for things like eating.
  • Mask exemptions will be accommodated for those with valid reasons such as respiratory challenges.
  • For students in JK-Grade 3, masks will be optional but encouraged.
  • Schools will implement additional hand hygiene, cohorting, and distancing.
  • Visitors in schools will be limited and will require pre-registration.
  • Masks will be provided to teachers and staff.
  • If a student or staff member is experiencing any symptoms of the COVID-19, they will be required to stay home.
  • Physical distancing will be implemented as much as possible.
  • Parents are allowed to decide whether their child returns to school in-person this September.
  • Students will have the option of remote learning, which would be delivered by the school board.
  • Any student or staff member who develops COVID-19 symptoms will be immediately separated from others. Staff and parents will then be contacted by their health provider and be informed about COVID-19 testing centres.
  • School staff will receive training on processes and procedures.
  • Organized sports and clubs can proceed if physical distancing can be maintained and equipment is cleaned regularly.
  • $309 million in new funding will help assist the safe reopening of schools.
  • The government has allocated $60 million for masks and personal protective equipment, $80 million for funding for additional staff, $25 million on cleaning supplies and $10 million for health and safety training.
  • $50 million has been allocated to hire up to 500 additional school-focused nurses in public health units to provide rapid-response support to schools and boards in facilitating public health and preventative measures, including screening, testing, tracing and mitigation strategies.

Related news stories:

School board chair speaks out.

Jim Young asks a lot of questions

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Schools will open in September - elementary classes will be what they were before the pandemic; secondary will be split.

News 100 redBy Staff

July 31st, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

The province announced earlier today that schools would open in September.

Elementary level students will remain a single cohort, five days per week, including for recess and lunch. Further, school boards will be required to provide the full curriculum. Class sizes will remain at the mandated maximum levels in place before the COVID-19 outbreak.

Secondary students in 24 “designated boards” — mainly in urban and suburban areas with relatively high student populations — will attend school on alternating days, in cohorts of about 15.

The Public is going to need some time to absorb this and determine what each household wants to do.

There are a lot of unanswered questions.

Busing students has some problems.

Here is what we do know:

  • Students in grade 4-12 will be required to wear masks with exceptions for things like eating.
  • Mask exemptions will be accommodated for those with valid reasons such as respiratory challenges.
  • For students in JK-Grade 3, masks will be optional but encouraged.
  • Schools will implement additional hand hygiene, cohorting, and distancing.
  • Visitors in schools will be limited and will require pre-registration.
  • Masks will be provided to teachers and staff.
  • If a student or staff member is experiencing any symptoms of the COVID-19, they will be required to stay home.
  • Physical distancing will be implemented as much as possible.
  • Parents are allowed to decide whether their child returns to school in-person this September.
  • Students will have the option of remote learning, which would be delivered by the school board.
  • Any student or staff member who develop COVID-19 symptoms will be immediately separated from others. Staff and parents will then be contacted by their health provider and be informed about COVID-19 testing centres.
  • School staff will receive training on processes and procedures.
  • Organized sports and clubs can proceed if physical distancing can be maintained and equipment is cleaned regularly.

 

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Is Friday going to be a bad news day on the re-opening of schools?

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

July 30th, 20020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Ontario Ministry of Education held a Technical Briefing this afternoon on the plans to re-open schools safely in September.

Shannon Fuller, Assistant Deputy Minister of Strategic Policy and Planning Division, Denys Giguere, Assistant Deputy Minister of French-Language Teaching, Learning and Achievement Division, Dr. David McKeown, Chair of Ontario’s Public Health Measures Table, and Nancy Naylor, Deputy Minister, from the Ministry of Education will be taking part.

A question and answer period followed the briefing. All information provided could not be attributed –it was for background purposes only.

Governments meet with media to outline approaches that are being taken to announcements they intend to make.

We can expect an announcement in the very near future on the re-opening of schools.

Governments tend to issue bad news on Friday afternoons of a long weekend.

We are going into a long weekend.

Tomorrow is a Friday.

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Frontenac Public School gets funding for child care centre renovations

News 100 yellowBy Staff

July 30th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Halton District School Board has received notice from the Ministry of Education of final funding approval for a new secondary school in Oakville, a new elementary school in Milton and a child care centre renovation at Frontenac Public School in Burlington.

The renovation at Frontenac Public School in Burlington will create a two-room child care centre. Funding will also provide for regularly planned renewal work at the school to be completed.

Renovations to the child care centre at Frontenac Public School will begin immediately

Frontenac Public school

Frontenac Public School – Built in 1967.

The provincial government will provide the following funding for these projects:
• $33,640,009 for the new Oakville secondary school (Oakville NE #1 hs)
• $19,183,165 for the new Milton elementary school (Milton SW #12 ps)
• $2,367,026 for the child care centre renovation and renewal work at Frontenac Public School

On behalf of HDSB students, the Board appreciates the role of the Ministry of Education and the Ontario government to improve the learning experience for students.

“We are grateful for the support of the Ontario government and the Ministry of Education for funding these three important projects. These new schools will help accommodate the tremendous housing growth occurring in Milton and Oakville,” says Stuart Miller, Director of Education for the Halton District School Board. “The renovation at Frontenac Public School will allow us to increase the number of child care spaces in our community and serve more families.”

Construction for the new schools in Oakville and Milton is expected to begin in Spring 2021.

The new secondary school in northeast Oakville (Oakville NE #1 hs), which will be located at Dundas St W and Neyagawa Blvd, will provide an innovative and supportive learning environment for 1,200 students.

Once complete, the new elementary school in southwest Milton (Milton SW #12 ps), which will be located on Kennedy Circle West, close to Louis St. Laurent Ave and Thompson Rd S, will accommodate 770 students and include five child care rooms.

 

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