In August of 2014, I sat in my bedroom scrolling through the Trent University website, nervously selecting courses for the first year of my undergraduate studies. Fast forward six years, and I found myself nervously scrolling through the website again, selecting courses for the final year of my undergrad. This time though, my nerves are caused by a new uncertainty – COVID-19.
At a Special Meeting of the Trillium Lakelands District School Board, director of education Wes Hahn said that the vast majority of parents have opted to return their children to regular full day learning beginning September 8.
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.”
The short answer? No.
Most Ontario teachers say they want to be back in the classroom this fall, but only if local school boards and the province meet several important criteria. One teacher admitted to being baffled by “how you can teach, discipline and assist without violating social distance regulations. It is simply impossible to do.”
When the province announced in late July that all publicly funded schools were to offer full-day, five-day-a-week school this fall, with pre-COVID class sizes, it caught many teachers off guard and caused a social media backlash seldom seen in the educational community.
One long-time elementary teacher expressed disgust for the Hospital for Sick Children report the province used as a basis for its focus on in-person learning for the fall. (All classroom teachers quoted in this article asked for anonymity in exchange for sharing their candid opinions.) “I am sure they are fine doctors (at Sick Kids) but they haven’t been in a classroom since the days of the one-room school house. I think they are expecting me to stand at the front of the class sheathed in Plexiglas and deliver my lesson. They are so clueless about what real teaching is.”
Online, in meetings and in private, many teachers are voicing similar frustrations about the reopening of schools this fall.
“Our prime concern is the health and safety of our workers, and along with them, students,” said Colin Matthew in an e-mail. His union represents secondary teachers in Trillium Lakelands District School Board.
“We will be focused primarily on infection control.”This may mean some combination of masking along with physical distancing which can be incredibly difficult in a high school environment and on the buses,” Matthew added.
His counterpart with the elementary teachers’ union, Karen Bratina, agreed. “Regardless of the model (for instruction) emergency funding must be provided by the Ford government to ensure a safe and effective reopening of schools for all stakeholders,” she said.
“Boards will require additional staff to ensure smaller class sizes for social distancing requirements,” Bratina added, “and sufficient personal protective equipment must be provided along with additional hand-washing facilities throughout the school.”
The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association represents staff in the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland Clarington Catholic District School Board (PVNCCDSB). It issued a strongly worded statement on August 10 that read, in part, “The safe care of our children is a fundamental social compact. Society and economies are built around child care. Parents want to send their kids back to school, but only if it is safe.”
“Older teachers instructing high school students every day and in classes of 25 to 30 are very concerned about catching COVID,” one veteran teacher said.
“We now know teens carry and spread the disease at the same or higher rates than other adults, and that scares me.”
Following closely on the heels of the provincial announcement that Trillium Lakelands District School Board buildings will be able to re-open Sept. 8 with few restrictions, the local board is trying to assess how many children will actually be returning to school in the fall.
“Next week all TLDSB families will receive an email with a link to a form asking to re-register each child for in-person and at-home learning,” a press release on the board websites shares.
“Once this information is received a program will be developed with enhanced public health protocols in place.”
Students will get one last look at their schools, if needed, as Trillium Lakelands District School Board moved to give limited access to schools for staff and students starting today.
Three youth sporting bodies updated their COVID-19 protocols this week and made three very different decisions.
The Victoria-Brock Baseball Association cancelled their 2020 summer season, Ontario Soccer extended its prohibition on play until July 1, and Ontario Rugby has started to make noises about a return to play protocol.
Beginning Sept. 8, Fleming College in Lindsay and Peterborough will start its fall semester using online and alternative delivery methods.
The college hopes that through the implementation of its Fleming Safe plan the school will be able to ensure that students can complete their programs while maintaining the highest possible safety standards in compliance with all government and public health directives.
A Lindsay landlord who rents regularly to Fleming students and who didn’t want to be identified was contacted for background on the story. He is concerned since he is normally fully rented for the fall by now.
In its first year in existence the Kawartha Lakes Concert Band performed two concerts. The first happened just three months after it formed; the second was for a sold-out audience at the Academy Theatre. “When the band participated in the Peterborough Kiwanis Music Festival, it earned a mark of 93 per cent and went on to win top prize for community bands in province-wide competition. So, as the band prepares for “To All a Good Night,” the Dec. 14 concert that will kick off its second year, the question is, what’s responsible for this success?
Some good fortune for sure: Who knew 74 musicians would answer a call to join, or that there’d be such a good balance of brass, woodwind, and percussion players? (Show me another community band that has 14 clarinets — a core component, clarinets are the violins of a concert band — and two bass clarinets, or three tubas and six trombones).
Thanks to organizing efforts by 17-year old Abby Jardine, Fenelon Falls joined other parts of Canada and much of the world in a climate strike September 27.
Rallying at the old Fenelon Falls Theatre marquee sign, about 50 marchers took to Fenelon Falls’ main street to bring attention to the issue of climate change.