Three scenarios for UCDSB students to return to class in September

The Upper Canada District School Board has revealed their three possible scenarios for students when school is scheduled to resume Sept. 4.

No option has been decided yet, as the UCDSB still awaits guidance from the province’s Ministry of Education and the local health unit.

Scenario 1 would see all students return to school five days a week with a regular routine and enhanced cleaning. Wellness centres will be introduced in schools where students and staff can isolate if they feel unwell during the day and cannot leave right away. There will be frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces. There will also be an emphasis on hand hygiene, through signage, direct teaching, new hygiene stations, and scheduled sanitizing time.

UCDSB’s Director of Education, Stephen Sliwa, says this is the preferred option for the board, "it’s what students are most familiar with, and we understand that will give some relief to families who have been carrying a very large load of supporting their children and their learning since schools were closed in March."

Scenario 2 is a combination of in-class and at-home learning. Students would be split into groups and would attend school three days a week, then learn at home virtually the other two. The groups would then rotate week to week.

Scenario 3 is a distance learning model similar to what students and parents went through during the COVID-19 pandemic, between mid-March and June.

Other safety measures to be put in place for students at UCDSB schools would include staggered release times from class to avoid congregation in common areas. Sliwa says it is not known yet if students will have to wear masks in class, and are waiting on further direction from the province.

Not good enough for parents

Mandy Steele is a single parent of two, and has a daughter heading into grade four at Queen Elizabeth Public School in Perth.

Her preferred option is also to have her kids back in school five days a week, but believes the safety measures proposed by the Upper Canada District School Board aren’t enough.

"We want our kids in school because that’s what we think is the best for their mental, social, and emotional health and well being," says Steele. "But it needs to be safe, so just sending them back without anything is not going to be safe."

A big problem for Steele is the class sizes. She’s worried her children will be in too close contact with other students, and wants additional spaces.

"Classrooms right now barely fit the number of students that we have in those classrooms. You’re having five; six kids all lumped together because there’s just no physical space."

A hybrid, Scenario 2 model of students coming to school part time doesn’t sit well with Steele either.

"If they do a hybrid it’s not going to work," says Steele. "Because then the kids that are not in school, they’re going to be going elsewhere. Whether it’s other family members, child care, that sort of thing. So it’s not mitigating the risk because they’re just going to be spread all over the place."

As a single working parent, at-home learning is just not an option for Steele.

"Even the ones that are saying 'I don’t think my kids are going back', they still want a safe return because it's their friends' children and neighbours' children that are going back," says Steele.

"It's children that are going back that might affect them long term whether or not they come across this person in the community. So a lot of parents are voicing the same thing; we want a safe return regardless of what that looks like for our own personal lives."