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



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?


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 –

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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