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Octoblocks: Trustees hear pros, cons of 22 days of only one class

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Octoblocks: Trustees hear pros and cons of 22 days of only one class

Trillium Lakelands District School Board staff and trustees spent much of their recent board meeting looking at statistical and anecdotal evidence about the first high school octoblock that ended Oct. 16.

For readers unfamiliar with an octoblock, the board decided as a public health measure to limit student contacts to one class and have students take one subject only for five hours a day for 22 straight days.

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Board adopts ‘octmesters’ — 22 straight, full days of same subject

in Education by

On Aug. 20, education minister Stephen Lecce instructed all non-designated boards to plan for a blocked semester school day for secondary schools. At the August 25 board meeting the Trillium Lakelands District School Board presented their new secondary school day structure along with voting mandatory masking for all students K-12.

Blocked semesters, also known as octmesters, will replace the quadmesters originally planned by the local board. Quadmesters were the option presented to parents earlier in August for their consideration as they and their children made decisions about whether their children would select in-person learning or remote learning.

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Ontario principals ask for more time for school openings

in Education by

The Ontario Principals’ Council (OPC) that represents over 5,000 school leaders in public elementary and secondary schools across the province has asked for more time to get their schools ready for opening in September.

Schools across Ontario are slated to be open Sept. 8, but the OPC, in a press release shared late last week, has recommended that the start of the school year be delayed until September 14 “to allow staff the time to train on matters such as PPE, outbreak management and tracing protocols.”

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How safe will buses be?

in Back to School 2020/Education by

Rumours that “Bus companies have no plan for back to school” are misleading and must sound scary for parents, said Greg Hammond. He owns Kawartha Lakes Bus Lines and is a senior executive with School Bus Ontario, the lobby group that represents most school carriers in Ontario.

“What exactly the plan looks like I am not able to say,” Hammond added during an interview in mid-August, “but parents can be assured that it will be a good, safe and workable plan.

“We have been considering all the different contingencies. School boards and school bus operators have been in constant conversation. We will get the kids to school safely,” he promised.

The province announced minimum standards for school buses at the end of July. They recommend students be assigned seats and sit with people from their household or classroom cohort. The standards stipulate that the driver will receive PPE, the seat behind them will be left empty, and that the windows should be left open when possible.

In normal times, Kawartha Lakes Bus Lines fields a fleet of approximately 130 buses responsible for delivering elementary and secondary students in TLDSB to the school of their choice.

Pre-COVID, buses were limited to 48 riders who were in Grade 6 and older, or 72 students in the kindergarten to Grade 5 age range.

Although boards close to Kawartha Lakes reported a worrying shortage of bus drivers for September, according to conversations with local drivers, Hammond says his company worked hard to recruit and train people. “We hope we are not short drivers.”

The Trillium Lakelands board surveyed parents in August to determine how many children would be going back to school in person. (The separate school board likewise asked parents to declare their intentions.)The bus company had to wait for those results before it made its hiring decisions.

With a reported average age of 62, according to a Teamsters Canada rep, Ontario bus drivers fall into the category of those who will be hit harder if they were to contract COVID-19.

Other jurisdictions have floated proposals requiring multiple bus cleanings a day, something Hammond suggested was “a reasonable expectation.”

He added, “Enhanced cleaning costs money in cleaning products, time and labour. It is going to be something we will be looking at closely.”

As of the Advocate’s press time, there did not appear to be any COVID-based restrictions on the number of students allowed on a bus.

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