With just two and a half weeks to go before the start of the new school year, the Toronto District School Board has approved a plan that totals $38.7 million to support smaller class sizes.
The committee considered three separate proposals, all of which involved redeploying 400 staff, dipping into reserve funding and spending millions on hiring additional teachers.
The option they settled on will allow for the hiring of 280 additional teachers with the Ministry of Education providing funding for another 86. There will be a total of 766 elementary teachers to ensure smaller class sizes.
Under the plan, kindergarten class sizes will be capped at 15 students in schools located in so-called COVID-19 “hotspots” in the city while it will be 26 students in what the board calls non-impacted schools. For Grades 1 to 3, class sizes will be capped at 20 across the city while for Grades 4 to 8, it will be capped at 20 students in hotspot areas and 27 everywhere else.
Students who opt for remote learning will see much larger classes – 29 for kindergarten, 20 for Grades 1 to 3 and 35 for Grades 4 through 8.
According to the option approved, even if schools use all the available space in their buildings – classrooms, gyms, libraries, cafeterias and lunchrooms – 34 elementary schools will have space issues if 100 per cent of students return while only four schools will have space issues if just 80 per cent of students return.
TDSB Interim Director of Education Carlene Jackson admits the plan isn’t perfect.
“We do not have the resources to lower class sizes across the system to the point where we would have the recommended distancing of two-metres everywhere,” said Jackson. “Health and safety is a priority for both staff and our board and we are looking at options to enhance these measures as much as possible.”
During a special meeting of the board, trustees were told by Executive Supt. Andrew Gold that the start of classes would likely be delayed a week until Tuesday, Sept. 15. Remote learning would also start on that day.
Trustees also approved a plan requiring masks for all students, starting in Junior Kindergarten. The provincial government has made masks mandatory for students in Grades 4 and higher.
The TDSB is also going to be sending out a new survey for parents and caregivers starting August 25, regarding whether or not they plan to send students to school for in-class learning. This time, the question for both elementary and high schoolers will be simplified:
(Elementary school question)
(High school question)
In the previous pre-registration survey, 24,786 elementary students chose remote learning while 7,622 high school students would have opted for “virtual school”.