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Schools in GTA to re-open for teachers to pick up materials needed for extended closure
An empty classroom is seen in this undated file photo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
TORONTO -- Hundreds of schools across the Greater Toronto Area will re-open for limited time periods this week, allowing teachers to pick up materials they need for online learning during the extended COVID-19 closures.
As school boards prepare to launch teacher-driven online learning for hundreds of thousands of students next week, educators are being told they will be allowed to pick up essential items required for performing their teaching duties.
The Toronto District School Board, which runs more than 550 elementary and high schools, was given the go-ahead by Toronto Public Health to re-open schools for teachers, while adhering to strict social distancing guidelines.
TDSB Chair Robin Pilkey said teachers had no way of anticipating the extended school closures and left behind critical materials needed to continue to teach students from home.
Pilkey said teachers would have to connect with their principals to organize a time to retrieve essential teaching materials and will have to adhere to strict protocols, including limits on how many people can be in the building at any given time, and how much time teachers get inside their classroom.
"We're not saying [teachers] have to do it, only if they’re comfortable," Pilkey told CTV News Toronto on Monday.
Pilkey said schools would not be open to students or parents.
Principals at the York Region District School Board were sent a similar directive this week, to re-open schools on April 1 and April 2 to allow teachers to pick up essential "materials or technology" needed to deliver the curriculum.
"Access is restricted only to the pick-up of materials required to support on-line teaching at home, no photocopying etc.,” the memo, obtained by CTV News Toronto, read.
Teachers are being given 15 minute blocks to access their classrooms and will be required to maintain a “minimum two-meter distance from staff."
The Peel District School Board sent out a similar memo to teachers on Monday saying that those who are performing “essential duties” will be allowed to enter schools for a limited period of time.
“Principals will create schedules that stagger staff visits to ensure physical distancing is maintained and to ensure that there aren’t a large number of staff … in a given area of the building at any one time,” the memo reads.
Staff are being cautioned, however, not to return to schools if they’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, travelled outside of Canada in the past 14 days or are self-isolating.
Laura Walton who represents thousands of unionized school caretakers in the province said staff performed a deep cleanse of schools over the March Break and will be responsible for unlocking the doors for teachers and cleaning touch points after they have left.
"We've been asking for screening protocols for [the safety of] our members," Walton said.
While the ministry of education is preparing to launch a second phase of its “Learn From Home” program, it says the decision to re-open schools to teachers rests solely with school boards themselves.