WECDSB unveils details of back-to-school plan and sneak peek inside
WINDSOR, ONT. -- In less than a month, students and educators across Ontario will be back in the classroom, but in a very different way.
The Windsor Essex Catholic District School Board is showing what new safety protocols will look like inside some local schools.
Trustees also had a chance to review a 30-page document Wednesday night, outlining how schools will operate under the COVID-19 pandemic.
Scheduling, screening, PPE, hand hygiene, cohorts, remote learning, recess and transportation were just some of the topics discussed during a question-and-answer period and some of the changes to take place.
During a school tour for media on Thursday morning, WECDSB officials explained the new risk reduction strategy to provide the safest possible environment.
Students will need to make physical adaptations, physical distancing, cohorting, wearing masks from Grades 4-12, hand hygiene and cleaning.
There will be no lockers and students will attend with a backpack.
School officials are asking parents to pre-register their children for either in-person schooling or remote learning.
The plan is now posted on the board’s website with an email for parents to provide feedback.If you would like to offer feedback on this plan, you can do so by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Director of Education Terry Lyons says remote learning is one aspect of the working plan that isn't finalized.
“The plan will have to be fluid,” says Lyons. “The plan will have to be able to pivot based on the challenges and circumstances and move forward. Part of what we didn’t talk about tonight is cohort D, which are remote learners. At this time it’s not definitive what that’s going to look like at this point in time.”
Lyons says they are waiting for the PPM to come from the Ministry of Education we should have it in your hands for sure this week.
"We're well aware that we may have families with children that are anxious to come back to school, so they may choose to stay home and they're well within their rights to do that,” says Lyons. “We also may have staff that has challenges that they may desire to remain at home and some of that still needs to be worked out."
School officials say changes to the plan are likely.
“It’s important for people to know that this plan is certainly not the last word on what our return to school plan will look like. Currently we are working on some more specific documents for students, parents and staff and those documents are going to be informed largely by the feedback and questions that we receive from parents, but also form some of the specific protocols that we received from the ministry and our colleagues at the health unit,” says communications director Stephen Fields.
The "new normal"
“Students are going to be well aware of the new norms, so that will be some training involved, with our staff and our student to make sure they are following, not only for themselves but also for the benefit of the health of other students,” says Emelda Byrne, executive superintendent of education and student achievement.
In Catholic high schools, that includes directional arrows for physical distancing, hand sanitizer, no lockers or shared learning materials.
Bathrooms will be restricted to smaller numbers and masks will be mandatory.
“Trying to keep people calm is one thing, and trying to make sure we’re very well prepared so that they feel positive in the sense of sending their students into school, no matter is it’s a Grade 5 student or a 15 year old in Grade 10,” says Byrne.
One of the biggest changes locally,will be student cohorts.
A big school like Villanova in LaSalle will see its daily population chopped in half, from 1200 to 600.
Students will follow a quadmestered format, two periods each day.
Students from cohort A and B will attend two or three times a week, or five days in-school over a two week period.
This will help facilitate a max of 15 students per class and make contact tracing easier for public health.
“With only two periods, they’re less transition time and less direct and indirect contact with students,” says Byrne.
Desks will be numbered either a one or a two, to ensure students are not sharing desks. Those spaces undergo enhanced cleaning between cohorts.
High school students not in-class on a given day will partake in “remote learning”, but it’s not yet clear which format that will follow.
“We’ll be getting clear direction from the ministry regarding our remote learners around that synchronous, real time learning and asynchronous learning online assignments are going to be given to students,” says Byrne.
Elementary schools, will also look different - with desks spaced a metre apart, directional hallways, limits on bathroom capacity and staggered lunch and recess breaks.
“We’ve also been looking at our communication with parents in making sure they have the information they require to make informed decisions and really help provide that support for our children preparing to come back to school,” says Melissa Ferrand, superintendent of education.
Elementary students will be attending full-time, with masks for Grades 4-8.
The Greater Essex County District School Board is expected to hold a special meeting later this month. Trustees will receive the plan as a report.
GECDSB spokesperson Scott Scantlebury says they will probably have the plan finalized this week for distribution to staff and families next week.