Over the last few weeks, many of you have reached out to express your concerns and frustration with the back-to-school plans. I share your concerns and frustration.
As Trustees we have been meeting weekly since June to plan for what back to school will look like. In partnership with Staff and Toronto Public Health, we have consistently pushed back on the Provincial Government's plans and advocated for the health and safety of all of our students and staff.
Unfortunately, our original plan to welcome every student and staff back in-person with reduced class sizes to accommodate physical distancing as recommended by Toronto Public Health was not approved by the Provincial Government.
Premier Doug Ford and Minister Stephen Leece have not been equal partners in this unprecedented time, they have provided no additional funding and have blocked all of our attempts to reduce class sizes in all of our schools. We are doing the best we can with the financial constraints we are under.
We have had to use 2% ($60 million), of our reserve funds to reduce class sizes across the system as much as we can. We have had to prioritize schools using data from Toronto Public Health while also taking into consideration a combination of additional factors such as the TDSB's Learning Opportunities Index, schools in higher risk areas, physical characteristics of classrooms, and larger enrolments. Two Ward 10 schools have been added to the list of schools identified as needing additional resources to lower class sizes: Lord Dufferin Jr & Sr Public School and Rose Avenue Jr Public School. These schools will have JK/SK classes capped at 15 students and grades 1 through 8 classes will be capped at 20 students.
A big thanks go out to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland for stepping up and providing approximately $2 billion in back to school funding across the country with more than $22 million of that to be used toward our back to school planning at the TDSB. Our staff are currently assessing the new funding to determine how we can further enhance our plans for such items as smaller class sizes, more caretakers, additional cleaning for schools and school buses and additional technology to support student learning.
Last Thursday I hosted a Virtual Ward Forum where Staff presented what a school day would look like and answered questions. If you were unable to attend or would like to review the meeting again, you can view the recording online. (password: bSDdSs45). Download the Powerpoint Presentation.
I will continue to advocate for our families across our ward and demand more resources for our community. I need you to also reach out to Doug Ford and Stephen Leece and demand the same from them. Parent voices matter.
Yours in Service,
School starts on September 15, 2020. There will be a staggered start for elementary students over the first three days (September 15 to 17). All secondary students begin school on September 15.
The start dates for each grade level are outlined below, based on school configuration. Once a student starts school on the first day for their grade, they continue to attend school every day.
Ninety percent of parents/guardians of all elementary students responded to the registration process. Of the students whose parents/guardians responded:
- In-person: 67% (5,144) in Ward 10 | 63% (107,601) Board-wide
- Virtual: 24% (1,817) in Ward 10 | 28% (47,462) Board-wide
Eighty-seven percent of parents/guardians of all secondary students responded to the registration process. Of the students whose parents/guardians responded:
- In-person: 69% (3,401) in Ward 10 | 68% (49,181) Board-wide
- Virtual: 15% (757) in Ward 10 | 19% (13,781) Board-wide
Health and Safety Measures
Ensuring the health and safety of students and staff is a priority and everyone plays a role. Following guidance from Toronto Public Health, a number of key measures will be put into place – including physical distancing, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, and screening for symptoms – in the TDSB to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
The most important thing families can do to help mitigate the transmission of COVID-19, is to screen their children daily for any COVID-19 symptoms and keep them home from school if they are sick or have had close contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19.
Once students and staff arrive at school, a second screening will be conducted before entering the building. If staff or students feel unwell or have symptoms of COVID-19, they should not attend school and should go to a primary care provider or assessment centre for testing.
If someone in the school community tests positive for COVID-19, Toronto Public Health protocols are implemented. The TDSB will work collaboratively with Toronto Public Health to support contact tracing and inform individuals who may have been in contact with the affected person.
Data Usage of iPads Provided to Students
To support our commitment to equity and to ensure all our students have the ability to access our learning systems, the TDSB distributed 60,000 devices to students, of which, approximately 7,500 were LTE iPads with data plans (remaining devices are Wi-Fi only). All devices have controls over data use including:
- Pop up messages reminding users of the Acceptable Use Policy, Code of Conduct and data limits;
- Blocking of streaming services (i.e. Amazon Prime, Netflix, Disney+, Crave TV) on LTE iPads; and
- Apple Air Watch enabled on all devices for remote tracking.
With respect to data usage costs, Rogers Communication donated the data costs up to 20 August and going forward, TDSB will be billed for data usage at the rate of $14.35/month for 6GB of data and up to $45/month for unlimited data use. Data costs are anticipated to range from $107k to $337k per month and will depend on the number of students assigned the LTE iPads electing virtual versus in-person schooling. For those who will utilize our remote offerings, data usage can vary as meeting apps use anywhere from 500MB to over 1GB per hour, depending on video/audio quality.
Currently, the base costs for the first semester have been allocated with additional funding identified to cover incremental costs resulting from increased data usage due to continued remote learning. Additional funds will be allocated to address data usage in the second semester if Stage 3 measures remain in place.
Accelerating the Water Bottle Filling Station Program
At present, it is believed that 306 TDSB schools (12 in Ward 10) have at least one water bottle filling station and an estimated 273 schools (22 in Ward 10) do not currently have one.
Staff are in the process of developing a standard for the number of water bottle filling stations each school should receive, however priority is currently focused on getting one station installed in every TDSB school.
Phased Approach to Water Bottle Filling Station Installation
In August 2020, Toronto Public Health (TPH) identified 80 TDSB elementary schools in the highest-risk Toronto neighbourhoods for COVID-19. Of these 80 elementary schools, 43 schools do not have a water bottle filling station. Within these same neighbourhoods, 4 secondary schools do not have a water bottle filling station.
In response to COVID-19, staff will be accelerating the TDSB’s water bottle filling station program to ensure every school in the system is equipped with at least one station. As detailed below, schools will be prioritized by need, starting first with the 47 schools in the highest-risk neighbourhoods for COVID-19 identified by TPH. Once these installations are complete, the Learning Opportunity Index will be used to prioritize installations at schools with the greatest level of external challenges. For a list of schools, refer to the TDSB Elementary and Secondary Schools without a Water Bottle Filling Station document.
School Council Operations
In April 2020, Trustees were updated on School Council operations in light of the varying impact of the pandemic on family/caregivers. At that time, adjustments were made to council meetings to balance the varying essential needs and circumstances being faced by family/caregivers.
As planning commences for school re-opening, school councils are eager to resume their activities. In order to respond effectively to the varying needs during COVID-19 and a hybrid face-to-face and virtual school reopening, staff will be consulting with the Parent Involvement Advisory Committee (PIAC), school council members and Principals on a school council operations plan for the 2020-2021 school year.
We are aware that there are schools and school councils that have resumed some activities. Hence, interim operations protocols are being developed in consultation with PIAC to support this effort.
At the TDSB, we are in the process of recruiting our next Director of Education. This process is being led by a Trustee Director Search Committee, in partnership with Mandrake, an executive search firm.
The Trustee Director Search Committee is made up of 11 elected trustees. This committee was selected to represent the four different Learning Centres; provide oversight, guidance and direction in the selection of the new Director of Education; and represent the TDSB and all of its stakeholders. This committee will also interview and select candidates for final approval for hire.
Mandrake has been retained as an external executive search firm to run and manage the recruitment process. Their role is to provide advice to and represent the interests of the Trustee Director Search Committee. They will also play a role in interviewing and assessing interested and qualified candidates.
Various TDSB stakeholders will have the opportunity to participate in an electronic survey that will inform the specific job criteria, accomplishments, experience and background that will be used to create the candidate profile for recruitment. Stakeholders include leadership staff, trustees, union and federated leaders, Community Advisory Committees, the Special Education Advisory Committee and the Parent Involvement Advisory Committee. Trustees will also be reaching out to community members in each of the four Learning Centres. This information will also inform the candidate profile for the next Director of Education.