TDSB says return-to-school plan could cost upwards of $250M

TDSB reveals what back-to-school could look like in September and one option requires hiring thousands more teachers, at a cost of nearly $250 million. Faiza Amin digs into the proposals and highlights a glaring problem

By News Staff

The Toronto District School Board says implementing a cohort return-to-school plan this fall could cost as much as $250-million.

In a document prepared by the TDSB, several scenarios are presented that include face-to-face learning five days a week with either cohorts of 15 students or class size depending on grade level or full class size.

The TDSB says maintaining 15 student cohorts at the elementary level with one teacher for a full day of learning would require an additional 2,500 teachers which would cost almost $250-million.

The same model but with the class day shortened by 48 minutes would require almost 1,000 additional teachers and additional costs of $100-million.

In each scenario, teachers would be required to cover all subjects and the cohorts could see a mix of grade classes. As well, the TDSB says there would be no French language instruction as there would not be enough qualified staff to cover the cohort model.

In the second option, cohorts of 15 students would be maintained for kids in junior kindergarten up to Grade 3 while cohorts of 20 students would be used for Grades 4 through 8. While this would require less space and less staff to cover smaller cohort sizes for all grades, a full day of learning would require 1,900 additional teachers at a cost of $190-million. Shortening the day by 48 minutes would still require 200 additional teachers and cost $20-million.

As with the first model, there would be no French language instruction.

The TDSB says it would also require an additional $22.5-million in funding just for the first four months of the school year for things like PPE, additional staff and cleaning and support for students.

When it comes to high school students, the TDSB is proposing ‘quadmesters’ which would see them take only two courses at a time over a 45 day period. Students would have option to attend in person or learn exclusively online two weeks before the start of each ‘quadmester’.

The goal of each quad is to have one in-school teacher per course in a class of 15 students. Where physical distancing measures are not possible, those classes would contain fewer students.

The TDSB says while a complete picture of what a return to school plan will look like is still in the formative stages, parents and caregivers will still have the option of selecting a robust fully remote learning model.

The Ministry of Education has asked school boards across the province to plan for three possible scenarios: full-time in-class teaching with proper COVID-19 measures in place; a hybrid model with both in-school and remote learning; and full-time remote learning.

Premier Doug Ford indicated on Tuesday he would prefer to see kids in the classroom full-time.

“I want kids in school five days a week,” said Ford. “We don’t need to shut the school down on a Wednesday to clean. What they should be doing is cleaning at nighttime and having the kids in class five days a week.”

The TDSB document says it is concerned that the “hybrid” or “adapted” model will force parents to choose between educating their children and their own employment.

In June, the TDSB conducted three surveys among staff, students in Grade 7 to 12 and, parents/guardians in order to gauge their opinions on the remote learning experience and the potential return to school this fall.

Two-thirds of families say they plan to send their kids to school in the fall while 73 per cent of students said they felt comfortable returning to the classroom.

Parents/guardians of elementary and secondary school students prefer an “every other day” model for a return to school as opposed to an “every other week” plan.

The TDSB plans to meet with the Ministry of Education the last week in July to review preliminary plans for what a return to school would look like before submitting a final draft on August 4.

The complete TDSB return to school preliminary plan can be viewed below:

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