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SCDSB unveils schools plans for September

August 13, 2020   ·   0 Comments

School will be a much different place for students in New Tecumseth this September.

The Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) recently announced it will be returning high school and elementary students to class full-time, under a cohort model, where students are kept as separated as possible due to the pandemic.

Parents also have the option to enroll their children in Distanced Learning, offered remotely, similar to what took place at the SCDSB from April to June.

“We are hoping that we continue with the trend that we’re seeing right now currently with our COVID-19 cases being low in Simcoe County but… if there is anything like a second wave or a spike in cases and we need to move into remote learning for all – we are going to be ready,” said SCDSB Superintendent Dawn Stephens during a special board meeting on August 4.

SCDSB staff who teach students face to face have prepared their courses online in either Google Classroom or D2L, in case they have to make the switch.

All of the board’s staff and students from Grade 4 to 12 will be required to wear a cloth mask in school, while it will be optional for Kindergarten through Grade 3.

Hand hygiene and physical distancing will be maintained in all grades and the schools will be set up to prevent crowding, with directional arrows lining hallways and signage that supports public health practices.

The physical distancing requirement is only set to one metre in elementary schools instead of two, which goes against the two metre recommendation that’s been repeated by public health officials since the start of the pandemic, Trustee Beacock noted.

“I’m not overly excited about the one metre for elementary,” he said. “There’s no studies that clearly say 0-10 years old can’t transmit the disease, but there’s lots of studies to say 10 years and older do.”

SCDSB Director of Education Steve Blake said the one-metre guideline was set by the Ministry of Education, as it’s impossible to keep staff and students in “complete bubbles.”

“What we are doing is trying to minimize the contact wherever we can, so to the extent that we can reduce the number of teacher contacts, certainly the amount of movement of the students – that’s what we will be striving to do,” he said.

All staff and students will self screen before coming to school, using a self assessment tool provided by SCDSB and any student with symptoms will have to stay home.

Secondary school students will be cohorted with their homeroom class to limit exposure to multiple teachers or classmates and they will remain in one class where possible, while outdoor learning opportunities will be maximized.

At secondary schools a quadmester approach is being taken for the first semester which runs September to February. Under this model students take two classes at a time instead of four to reduce potential exposure to COVID-19.

“Traditionally in secondary school students would take four classes for one semester, from September to February and four more classes from February to June,” Stephens noted.

In a quadmester, students take two classes and that would go from September to November then they get those credits and begin two different courses from November to February.

“This will reduce the cohorts so students will only be in two cohorts as oppose to being in four cohorts,” said Stephens.

Students will spend the first half of their day in period one and the second half in period two.

Enhanced cleaning protocols will be in place for the duration of the pandemic.

“This includes cleaning and disinfecting at least twice a day of frequently touched surfaces and shared resources such as doorknobs, light switches, toilets, and faucet handles,” Stephens noted.

SCDSB recently purchased 8,000 Chromebooks and technology for 2,000 Wi-Fi hotspots to support students who opt to learn remotely instead of in-person, but lack the technology.

A decline in mental health has been a side effect of the pandemic for many, including youth, so supports will be in place across Simcoe County schools as they return back.

“Our social workers will continue to provide direct support to students with emerging or identified mental health concerns along with resources and consultation support for staff and families,” Stephens explained.

The Simcoe County Student Transportation Consortium is working with bus operators to ensure frequently-touched surfaces are cleaned twice daily.

Seating plans on buses will support maximum physical distancing placement, although the board said its not possible to distance every student two metres apart.

There have been bus driver shortages in other jurisdictions but SDCSB is in good shape for September, noted Superintendent Douglas Paul.

In the event somebody at the school tests positive for COVID-19, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit will handle contact tracing.

“They will be the lead if there is a positive case in a school, but we will also be a part of that communication,” noted Stephens.

Lloyd said the Chief Medical Officer of Health has indicated to the board that this is going to be a very complicated undertaking as schools reopen during cold and flu season.

“He did acknowledge that it will be very difficult and any students will not be able to attend if they have symptoms which are all very similar,” she said.

Meanwhile, all students will be forced to pack a lunch each day as they won’t be able to exit the school during their lunch hour. All in-school cafeterias are also closed.

In terms of lockers, they won’t be available to secondary school students, at least for the start, as its difficult to physically distance while accessing them.

Under the quadmester model, students will only have two subjects at a time, so there will be less books to carry, Stephens noted.

She said the use of lockers will be revisited as the school year progresses.

Teachers will be allowed to offer extra curricular programs but contact sports such as football and wrestling will be disbanded for the year.

Parents are expected to pre-register their children for school, if they just show up the day of they might get wait listed, Stephen stressed.

She said the school board is glad they’re able to offer an in-person education this year, understanding the important impact of face to face learning.

“We are very hopeful that parents will choose to send their children to school. We have all of these enhanced safety measures in place because we really do want the students in the school,” she said.

By Sam Odrowski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter


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