With the conclusion of the 2019-20 school year, we continue to face uncertainty as we think about what school will look like in September. It is our hope that under the direction of our Public Health officers we can reopen our schools and welcome back students to the fullest extent possible.
Possible Scenarios for School Re-opening in September
The provincial government has released a document to guide school boards in the reopening of schools. Called Approach to the reopening of schools for the 2020-2021 school year, the document requires boards to plan for 3 possible models:
- normal school day routine with enhanced public health protocols
- modified school day routine based on smaller class sizes, cohorting and alternative day or week delivery, or
- at-home learning with ongoing enhanced remote delivery
While it is the hope of our Board that we can soon return to a normal routine with all students in attendance, we are planning for all scenarios.
Current physical distancing requirements of 2 metres do not make it possible for us to have more than 15 pupils in a classroom, which is typically 750 to 800 square feet. Should we be required to activate model B, we are exploring a model that has been widely discussed in the media: a group of students attending Monday and Tuesday and the other group of students attending Thursday and Friday. Wednesdays would be used for enhanced cleaning. We recognize the ongoing difficulties for students and families when physical attendance at school continues to be not possible or only part-time. Our Board and its schools commit to examining in detail where and how we can maximize student attendance at school where parents want that option. Additionally, we will work hard to ensure that if we are required to implement model B, families can have their children attend on the same days. As you can appreciate, planning for these multiple scenarios is complex and we will work closely with the Renfrew County District Board with our shared transportation services.
We want families to be aware that the Renfrew County Joint Transportation Consortium is also planning for September and is also under physical distancing requirements that may only allow 24 students on a 72 seat bus. As you can appreciate, given those numbers, the provision of transportation to everyone who has ordinarily accessed it will be very challenging.
Please be assured that in either model A or B above, the return to school in the fall of 2020-21 will be voluntary and based on parent choice. For parents who choose not to send their child back to school, we will be prepared to continue to offer remote education. This requirement will be in place for as long as public health circumstances require adapted delivery of education. In our recent parent survey to which over 500 responded, you told us that your experience from March to June of this year with remote learning ranged from very successful to very difficult. We are reviewing your comments carefully and will continue to improve our remote learning approach, should it be necessary. No matter what your family’s experience and engagement in emergency distance learning, our RCCDSB staff look forward to meeting your child(ren) where they are with their academic development.
Our Board continues to engage in planning for the reopening of schools. We will await further direction from the Ministry of Education and health authorities as we pursue options that will meet the following criteria:
- the provision of a robust, 21st century, educational journey that prepares students for their future and enhances their sense of well-being wherever they are learning from,
- an educational experience for students and a workplace for staff that occurs in a safe school environment characterized by warmth, hospitality, good humour and joy
Our Board wishes to thank our students, families, employees and indeed all Renfrew County residents for the significant effort in keeping the COVID-19 pandemic largely at bay to date. We urge the Ministries of Education and Health to consider a regional approach to school reopening in September that considers the local data regarding COVID-19 while ensuring proper safety protocols to minimize risk to students and staff.
While our celebrations will be different this year, please accept our best wishes for a wonderful Canada Day and a healthy start to the summer break period.