Director of education with the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) Mark Fisher says the start of the 2020-21 school year will be “staggered” over a period of up to two weeks for elementary school students as part of new back-to-school plans in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
In two tweets posted just after 4 p.m. Thursday, Fisher said “this will allow for more time to learn new school routines in smaller group settings.”
“Parents and guardians should be prepared to make alternate child care arrangements for those first two weeks. Schedules will be sent ASAP.”
#TVDSB will be staggering entry for elementary in-person students, up to a two week period for return to school. This will allow for more time to learn new school routines in smaller group settings. (1/2)
— Mark Fisher (@DirFisherTVDSB) August 20, 2020
Speaking on The Afternoon Show with Jess Brady on Friday afternoon, Fisher told Global News that the staggered approach will allow for everyone to go over all of the new health and safety protocols in smaller groups.
“I think more likely it’ll be classes divided into either halves or thirds and coming for a couple of days, going through all the health and safety protocols with their teachers, then they would then maybe be off for a couple days and the other half or the other third would come in,” said Fisher.
“Then we would gradually add numbers and then (at) some point over the two-week period we would be back to the full complement of students that are returning to the full face-to-face. It would be happening at every school in the district.”
Among the changes to go over, Fisher explained, are staggered lunch and recess times, different protocols for entries and exits, the use of protective equipment, rules surrounding bathroom occupancy, and more.
Fisher added that the situation is a fluid one and they “have to do a lot of work in a very short period of time.”
“Parameters for engagement change daily. I just got an email about 15 minutes ago from the Ministry of Education and they want to hold teleconference with me today at 5 and I’m sure there will be some shifting parameters again that we’ll have to incorporate.”
Earlier this week, a deadline for parents and guardians to confirm whether their children would be learning remotely or in-person closed on Tuesday. On Aug. 17, the day before the deadline, the board said that it had received responses for 78 per cent of their students, with only about 13 per cent confirmed for full-time online learning at home.
Outside of the London, Ont., region, some other school boards in the province have also recently announced plans for a staggered start to the school year.
In Grey and Bruce counties, the Bluewater District School Board provided a chart outlining how the staggered start would look for both elementary and secondary schools. In the Peterborough area, the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board announced on Tuesday that it would implement a staggered start to the first week of the school year.
The Toronto District School Board provided an update Thursday outlining its back-to-school plans, after the Ontario government rejected a previous proposal. The school year for Toronto students is set to begin on Sept. 15 and different grades will see a staggered start over the course of a few days.
— With files from Global News’ Greg Davis and Nick Westoll.
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