The Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) is preparing to begin full-time instruction at all of its schools in September with significant changes to manage risk and contact.

Staff reported to the board of trustees during a special meeting Aug. 4. Director of education Wesley Hahn detailed plans to limit interactions between different groups, or cohorts, of students to safely reopen amidst the pandemic.

Hahn said everything from classroom setup, hall movement, building entry, lunch hours and recesses will be scheduled to
make sure kids are not mixing in large groups.

“The health and wellbeing of staff and students is key,” Hanh said. “We’re going to be looking at every possible scenario to make sure we’re doing the right things to keep kids and staff safe.”

The province unveiled its plan July 30 to have most schools reopen to a normal schedule in September. Masks will also be mandatory for staff and Grade 4-12 students indoors and on buses.

Students will take full course loads, but Hahn said the strategy is for elementary students to stay with homeroom teachers in the same classroom, rather than move throughout the building. Meanwhile, secondary students will take only two credits at a time. Masks, cleaning supplies and sanitizer will be on hand.

Staff and parents will also be asked to do a daily assessment process to check for COVID-19 symptoms.

“Still things we need to put in place, but we think we have a really good plan right now,” Hahn said.

Parents will have the choice to have their children do remote learning instead. To accomplish that, TLDSB is asking all students to re-register for school, with emails being sent by the end of the week. Hahn said parents will have about a week to respond. He added the delivery of remote learning is dependent on the makeup of students opting for it.

Trustee John Byrne asked about re-entry for students who initially opt-out of classroom learning or bus transportation. Hahn said although that will be allowed, there may be three or four week delays to limit how often students move through cohorts.

“We do realize things may change and parents may want to opt back in,” Hahn said. “We just don’t want it to be happening weekly.”

Contact sports are out

Student trustee Kaylee Kelly asked about the return of clubs and sports. Hahn said they’d offer clubs virtually where possible, but anything requiring close contact is not happening for now.

“Sports or clubs that may involve students coming into contact, we’re not prepared to put people at risk,” Hahn said.

Schools will also be limiting visitors. Kelly asked about continuing breakfast programs, often run with outside volunteer groups. Hahn said staff are working that out, possibly by having groups deliver food without entering schools.

Trustee Gary Brohman said those programs need to continue.

“We must, must support these vulnerable kids,” Brohman said.

The board thanked Hahn and the administration team for the effort.

“I’m very optimistic,” trustee Stephen Binstock said. “But I like hearing that we’re preparing for the worst.”

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