Public board outlines back-to-school strategy

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67% of families confirm in-class attendance

By Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative 

The Lambton-Kent District School Board (LKDSB) has a plan for everything.

On Thursday, LKDSB released a 46-page document detailing its back-to-school strategy which touched upon everything from busing to additional staff and extra-curricular activities.

St. Clair Catholic District School Board officials said they will release their back-to-school plan on Friday. Staff are also finishing up its tally regarding how many kids will be returning to in-person classes.

The academic year for LKDSB students will be broken down into quadmesters (four terms) with only two classes taught, each for 150 minutes (2.5 hours) per day, according to John Howitt, director of education.

Breaks will be built into the new double-length periods. 

Credit requirements have not changed. Although only two courses will be taught per quadmester, course time will still total the 110-hour requirement.

Ministry guidelines allowed for one-subject-a-day or two-subjects-a-day models.

“We went with the two-subject-a-day model to give students some variety between the morning and the afternoon,” Howitt said.

LKDSB’s summer school classes operate based on that model and there is no evidence to suggest students lose focus or perform worse with longer periods per subject, according to Howitt.

Sports, extra-curricular activities and clubs will be placed on hold during the beginning of the school year until LKDSB “gets settled.” Some will adapt to an online model and some are expected to proceed in-person.

Kids hoping to enter post-secondary education on a scholarship will still be on an equal playing field to students in other schools, according to board officials.

The Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations, the provincial sport organization for secondary schools, announced on Wednesday that all fall sporting events will be cancelled.

“That’s pretty consistent across other provinces and other jurisdictions. So post-secondary education facilities that have focused on that (sports) in the past, may have to alter their entry expectations for the students this year,” Howitt said. 

A mask requirement will be in place for Grade 4 to Grade 8 students while participating in physical education. Students with pre-existing conditions will be exempt and their parents are asked to reach out to their respective schools to see if the mask exception is appropriate for their child.

During lunch time, students will be expected to bring their own food and stay in their period one classroom. Howitt said it’s possible that kids might not have their best friends in the classroom with them so the schools plan to monitor how it will affect students socially.

LKDSB is working with Chartwell, the cafeteria food provider, to see if there will be a “Skip the Dishes type of delivery model” or develop a grab-and-go model for serving lunch. For elementary students, the board is working with its student nutrition program partners. 

No student is allowed to leave the premises during lunch hours and are asked to bring reusable water bottles instead of using the fountains. 

Virtual community service options are being looked into for graduating students who need to fulfill their 40-hour requirement. As of now, the requirement still stands, but if the COVID-19 situation worsens, the Ministry of Education may revise and remove it.

Both of Chatham-Kent’s school boards sent out a survey asking families if they will be sending their kids back to the classroom. Under Ontario’s guidelines for the 2020-2021 school year, no one will be forced to attend class in-person.

READ MORE:  Students to return to class, if parents want

Approximately 67.5 per cent of parents will be sending their kids back to the classrooms at LKDSB come fall, 7.5 per cent are choosing to continue with at-home learning, and the school board is attempting to reach out to the remaining 25 per cent of families that did not answer the survey.

“Now that we have that information, we are able to finalize our detailed plans,” Howitt said. 

Now that the document is out to the public, parents have until Aug. 28 to change their decisions. 

Those that did not respond to the board’s survey are subject to the same deadline. However, Howitt is confident they will be able to reach every student before the deadline.

Parents will be provided with a checklist to perform daily screening of their children before they head off to school. They are required to assess their children daily and disclose whether they are experiencing any signs of illness, and are expected to keep them home if they are. 

LKDSB has a back-up plan if the COVID-19 situation gets worse. Howitt said if the situation improves, it is up to the provincial government and local health units to determine if any restrictions can be lifted.

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