Students Returning to In-Person Learning Causing Concern at Public School Board

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It's been a few days since nearly 1,900 students returned to school at the Greater Essex County District School Board after choosing to opt back in for in-person learning.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many families chose to keep their children at home at the beginning of the school year, but have since changed their minds.

Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario local president Mario Spagnuolo says the transition has caused some challenges for staff and students.

He says larger class sizes are causing concern.

"We've been very lucky in Windsor-Essex in terms of the COVID rates have not been as problematic as Toronto and Peel, but our fear is that we're heading in that direction if things don't change. So we need to be proactive and invest money to keep these class sizes smaller so that we're putting safety first."

Spagnuolo says, with more students, physical distancing has become a problem.

"Our concern with the primary grades especially being larger is they are not masked. There is no mandate for students from kindergarten to Grade 3 to wear masks. So we have some very anxious teachers in those programs. So this, in addition to he cases popping up in elementary schools this week in this area have definitely increased the anxiety."

He says the board is pushing the limit in many cases.

"There is no maximum class size cap under the legislation. It's left to the school boards to determine. In the primary grades, basically it's a soft cap of 20 and a hard cap of 23. We're noticing that the board has maxed out many classes between the 20 and 23 in the primary."

At the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board, 803 elementary students returned to class Monday.

In August, both school boards asked parents to choose in-person or at home learning for their children — they were then given a chance to change their decision roughly a month into the school year.

 

— with files from AM800's Kristylee Varley