An Ottawa-Carleton District School Board trustee admits that staff at the board were not doing the usual planning for the return to school in September this past May and June.
Speaking on CTV News at Noon, Mark Fisher said that the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the usual end-of-school-year plans.
"In a normal year, we approve our academic staffing at the end of March. There's a lot of work that goes on in April-May to do the assignments and get them all placed and, ultimately, when we have the end of school year, principals and their staff and teachers are starting to think about what September will look like in terms of how schools are going to be organized," Fisher said.
"That's what happens in a normal year. That's not what happened this year."
In an email to CTV News, Fisher later clarified that academic staffing work was completed in the spring.
Fisher told CTV News at Noon that staff had only three to four weeks to do the rest of the work that would have normally be done in the spring, in part because of delays from the province.
"A lot of the school boards, particularly our school board, in fairness, were waiting for a lot of specific guidance from the ministry [of education]. That didn't come until late in July. Some of it just came in in the last week, in terms of the operational guidance and the protocols around screening and tracking and tracing. All of those things have a bearing on how we open our schools," Fisher said.
Fisher also discussed briefly the announcement from the OCDSB about the staggered start dates, which pushes elementary school students back another week.
"A lot of the information is coming late," he said. "When we look at our own board, we made a decision a week or so ago to effectively start the school year on September 8, with a staggered start over two weeks. I think, ultimately, when staff got into the planning of that, they found out that the secondary school level was a lot easier, in terms of space and staffing and number of students."
OCDSB secondary students will attend orientation Sept. 8 and 9. This is followed by Cohort A attending school Sept. 10 and Cohort B on Sept. 11, but elementary students won't start classes until Sept. 14 at the earliest, with staggered start dates over the two following days.
Fisher said preparing elementary schools proved difficult.
"I think, when they looked at their initial commitment about trying to prioritize our youngest learners and getting them back first, I think that showed to be a bit more complicated than they had envisioned," he said. "I think they were looking to prioritize our youngest learners, and I, certainly, as a parent, read that to mean that students would be going back that first week of September 8 but, again, as you get into these details, they prove to be a bit more complicated than you had originally envisioned."