School board planning for fall hindered by lack of clarity

No plan in place to support families
Ontario’s school board directors must provide their school re-opening plans to the province by August 4th. The plans must ensure that school staff not only are ready for several possible scenarios, but that they are prepared to pivot quickly if the COVID situation changes.

The Ministry of Education has outlined three scenarios to be considered for opening schools in the fall:

students returning to school full-time, with enhanced public health protocols (including things like physical distancing “bubbling” students into groups of 15);
a so-called hybrid or adaptive model where students learn part-time at school and part-time online; and/or
schools remaining closed with students doing all their learning remotely.
A number of directors say they have been hampered by a lack of clarity from the province, and they are concerned that they may spend weeks making plans that will not be approved by the Minister.

Collaborating to develop workable plans
Any of the various scenarios that boards are planning (see box) will require flexibility from the Ministry of Education, school board staff, and teacher and support staff unions. It will also require flexibility from families and students as they may be required to manage as much as half of students’ learning time outside of school.

People for Education and others, including the Ontario Human Rights Commission, have called on the Minister to convene a Task Force or Partnership Table to ensure that those with experience and expertise can work together to problem solve, test ideas, and create an effective and workable plan. Organizations like the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation have provided their own guidelines for school re-opening. However, thus far the Minister of Education has declined to bring together at one table, leaders from organizations representing directors of education, principals, teachers, support staff, students, faculties of education, health, municipal services, and early childhood education.

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