English-language school boards present their fall plans amid COVID-19
From hand sanitizer in every classroom to teachers in personal protective equipment, Ottawa’s two largest school boards are giving parents a glimpse of what September’s return to class will look like.
The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) and the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) both described changes made this fall to protect students and staff.
With elementary and middle school students returning to class full-time, provincial regulations require students in grades 4 and up to wear masks, but both English-language school boards are also encouraging parents to equip young children with reusable masks. .
They will also have hand sanitizer in every classroom and at every entrance to the school, and students will need to use it when entering and leaving.
School hallways will also have directional signs and markers to keep students away from each other, and neither parents nor volunteers will be allowed inside the building.
Dozens of students in elementary classes
Growing class sizes has been a concern for parents over the years, but especially before the return in September, given the risk of the spread of COVID-19 among students.
On Monday, the OCDSB announced the maximum class size:
- For kindergarten: 29 students.
- For years 1 to 3: 23 students.
- No maximum for grades 4 to 6, but generally below 30.
- No maximum for grades 7-8, but usually below grade 30.
Meanwhile, the OCSB said it plans to have an average of 26 children in a Kindergarten class, up to 23 students in a Grades 1 to 3 class, and an average of 24.5 students in Grades 4 to 8.
Elementary students in both boards will be required to stay in their own classroom throughout the day, including during lunch, recess and when taking physical education classes.
Only teachers will alternate between classes.
âOttawa Public Health has looked at all of our plans to see how we’re going to balance the risks of going back to school with the potential danger of not having developmentally appropriate interactions with students,â said Thomas D ‘ Amico, Director of Education of OCSB, in a video posted on Monday.
While people are expected to physically distance themselves by staying two meters apart, D’Amico acknowledged that one meter is “the reality in most of our classrooms.”
The OCDSB also published his own video Monday.
Distance learning deadline coming soon
Both boards recognize that secondary schools are more complicated, given their size and the number of students.
Students will not be returning to class five days a week, and instead of the typical two-semester academic year, students will have four semesters, each covering two courses.
The OCDSB said students in its high school classes will be divided into two groups, each with around 15 students. They will attend classes two or three days a week, alternating from week to week, and will learn from home on the days they are not in class.
Parents can decide to keep their kids at home and learn remotely for the coming year, but they have to make that choice by Friday.
Both councils have said parents may change their minds, but likely not until at least mid-fall.