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Almost 90 per cent of UGDSB parents plan on sending children back to school in September

Efforts have been made to ensure smaller cohorts in all grade levels

A survey conducted by the Upper Grand DIstrict School Board that collected 34,828 responses shows 89 per cent of families chose in-class learning for September.

The board presented the results at a meeting Tuesday night.

It showed 11.5 per cent selected remote learning. Results from the survey data will be cleaned as some households responded more than once. 

The board’s back-to-school model has officially been selected by the Ministry of Education and school will definitely look different this September. 

Kindergarten classes will be split in half in which teachers and early childhood educators will work with students each day in separate spaces.

The board will also hire approximately 65 teachers for junior and intermediate grades in select schools in order to reduce class sizes across the system equally.

Secondary school students will participate in a combination of in-person and remote learning in both the UGDSB and the Wellington Catholic District School Board. The WCDSB has also been directed to reopen its elementary and secondary schools under a conventional model with enhanced health and safety protocols. All WCDSB schools will open to students for in-person learning five days a week.

“Students will attend their classes five days a week and receive the full 300 minutes of instruction each day. However, students will attend in person for 150 minutes each day with their classroom teacher and will then receive an additional 150 minutes of instruction through remote learning,” said Carlo Zen, student success lead at the UGDSB.  

“This schedule allows for students to be cohorted in smaller classes as well as meeting the limit of 100 direct or indirect contacts over a one week period as outlined by the ministry.” 

The new hybrid model will require students to participate in remote learning which includes synchronous and asynchronous learning. The minimum amount of time that students must spend per day engaging in synchronous learning depends on their grade level. 

On Aug. 13, the Ministry of Education announced four new updates which include allowing school boards to access their accumulated surplus to be used to increase physical distancing in classrooms, providing funding to ensure leadership for virtual school plans ventilation in classrooms, introducing new remote learning guidelines and allowing school boards to adopt a staggered start for students during the first week of school.

“Synchronous learning will be provided for large or small groups of students each day in the manner similar to in-person classroom teaching,” said Gary Slater superintendent of education at the special school board meeting on Tuesday. 

He said synchronous learning time may include students working independently and in small groups while engaged in a virtual classroom with the teacher overseeing their learning.

For kindergarten students, the daily minimum synchronous learning requirement is 180 minutes. For students in Grade 1 to Grade 8, the minimum requirement is 225 minutes.

Secondary students from Grade 9 to Grade 12 will be required to spend either 60 minutes of their 75 minute class in synchronous learning or 225 minutes per day for a full schedule course. 

“Now that we have a good sense of the students who opted for the remote learning model, we know that we have to set up a significant number of classes for these students. 

Slater said the board expects approximately 2,700 elementary students to start the school year with the remote learning model and in order to provide support to the students, the board will temporarily assign a principal and vice principal to oversee the teaching and learning of students. 

A staggered entry approach during the first week of school aims to help elementary staff and students adjust to their new routines and learn about the health and safety practices instituted in schools. 

New junior kindergarten students will attend school for a full day on either Tuesday or Thursday of the first week or Wednesday or Friday of the first week. Their full-time attendance will begin on Monday, September 14. 

Students in senior kindergarten to Grade 8 will be divided into two different groups, cohort A and cohort B and will have two day gradual entry periods. Cohort A will attend class on Sept. 8 and cohort B will attend on Sept. 9. Both groups will attend full time starting Sept. 10. Families will be contacted about which cohort their child will be placed in. 

The board will also introduce school greeters in elementary school who will be responsible for welcoming students in the morning, ensuring orderly entry into the school building and supporting students with masks and hand sanitizer. 

Secondary schools at the UGDSB have been directed to open in a conventional model where they will implement a quadmester approach which consists of taking two courses at a time for 10 weeks. The schedule is then repeated for the following 10 weeks.

Secondary school students also have the option of choosing a remote delivery model if their decision is related to health and safety in response to COVID-19. Approximately 1,000 students have selected remote learning and those students will continue to be in a quadmester schedule but will take a single course at a time for five weeks. 

The board will also temporarily assign a principal and vice principal to oversee the teaching and learning of students for secondary students. 

The staggered entry approach for secondary students will see Grade 9 students attend their first day on Sept 8, Grade 10 students attend their first day on Sept. 9 and all grades attend on Sept 10. The first day for remote learning will take place on Sept. 11. 

As per ministry guidelines to ensure ventilation in classrooms, the UGDSB purchased 300 standalone HEPA grade infiltration units for windowless classrooms. 

John Veit, manager of plant operations at the UGDSB said the board will ensure that maintenance is complete before school begins and that all filters will be changed and visually inspected before school opens.

“I really want the public to understand, I want to make it clear that the government has spoken directly to parents and set out expectations and boards have had to make it so with very limited resources, no time,” said Linda Busuttil, board trustee at the special school board meeting. 

“And it’s been a phenomenal task that our senior administration and our school leaders and our union partners have all undertaken because they value public education, children learning, our families and our communities.”


Anam Khan

About the Author: Anam Khan

Anam Khan is a journalist who covers numerous beats in Guelph and Wellington County that include politics, crime, features, environment and social justice
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