Local boards to release detailed back-to-school plans this week

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Students will be back in regional schools in three weeks, and local school boards are thanking families for their patience as they work to release a back-to-school plan.

On Friday, both the Limestone District School Board and the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board sent out letters from their directors of education saying that the boards continue to finalize plans for the return to area schools, working from the Ministry of Education’s revised Guide for Reopening Ontario’s Schools, which was released last week.

“Staff are working as quickly as we can to align our plans with the ministry guidance document and staff collective agreements while addressing provincial and local health directives,” Krishna Burra, director of education for LDSB, told families in a letter published on the board’s website.

Burra said the public school board continues to meet with public health to “confirm health and safety protocols including cleaning, masking, screening and plans on how to deal with potential outbreaks.”

The public board will also be asking families to tell the board later this week whether their students will be opting out of school.

“We need this information to ensure our classes are staffed sufficiently according to the ministry model and staff collective agreements,” Burra’s letter stated.

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He said in the letter that the board’s reopening plan will help parents make an informed decision as they weigh their options.

Burra said there had been some confusion about whether students can move back and forth between in-person and remote learning.

“While the minister of education indicated families would have latitude to do so, the ministry guidance document expands on this, indicating that it would need to happen at defined points of the school year,” Burra wrote.

“We will make every effort to accommodate families’ wishes, but we may not be able to do so in every case.”

Burra said reopening plans will be released following a board meeting sometime this week, which will reveal more detailed plans so that families can make their back-to-school decisions.

“These plans include what a typical school day will look like, including health and safety protocols, the use of physical spaces, school timetable and routines, and school arrival and dismissal,” Burra said in the letter.

“Based on our work with labour partners and public health, these plans will continue to be fine-tuned in the coming days and weeks.”

David DeSantis, director of education with the Catholic board, said ALCDSB’s formal plan will be revealed later this week.

“Our No. 1 priority is the health and safety of all students and staff,” DeSantis said in his letter. “We continue to work with the Ministry of Education, our local public health units, co-terminus boards, union groups and Tri-Board Transportation as part of our planning process.”