TORONTO -- Ontario's largest school board has released its plan to parents for reopening schools this September and says that it will start asking them this week to indicate where their kids will be learning in the fall.

Titled “Returning to School: A Guide to the Safe Reopening of the TDSB,” the document outlines the school board’s plans for health and safety measures, learning models, and other supports in schools this September.

In the letter sent out to parents on Monday, Interim Director of Education Carlene Jackson said the school board is doing “everything possible to ensure the health and safety of all school community members.”

The plan has been developed by the school board over the past few months in conjunction with Toronto Public Health and the Ministry of education, along with input from staff, students and family members.

Jackson said the TDSB received final direction from the Ministry of Education on July 30, allowing the board to firm up its plans for the fall semester.

In addition to sharing details about school reopenings, the letter to parents also states that starting Tuesday, the school board will be reaching out to parents asking for them to indicate their intentions for their children in September. The board said they are looking to find out which parents will be sending their children to attend classes in person and which parents will be keeping their kids home to learn remotely.

Jackson said that if parents cannot be reached by phone, then the board will follow up with an email which will include a link to a pre-registration form.

More information about the pre-registration process will be shared with parents on Tuesday, the letter said.

Board remains concerned about class sizes

TDSB schools are set to reopen on Sept. 8.

High school students will attend school every day, in smaller class sizes of approximately 15 students, in either the morning or afternoon, with online learning at home the other half of the day.  Schools will operate on a quadmester schedule.

However the current plan calls for children in kindergarten through Grade 8 to attend school five days a week with one cohort for the full day.

The school board has called on the ministry to provide funding to reduce class sizes so as to allow for physical distancing and made its case in a presentation to the Ministry of Education on Aug. 7.

In a blunt assessment in its reopening plan, the TDSB says that physical distancing will not be possible in many elementary classrooms in Toronto.

“TDSB believes that elementary class sizes should be lowered as a precaution to improve the health and safety of students and staff in schools and to ensure physical distancing guidelines,” the board’s reopening plan states. “Many of Toronto’s elementary schools are old, small and, in many cases, do not have classroom space that would allow a full class of students to physically distance the recommended 2 metres.”

Premier Doug Ford has said that there is $80 million available in the province’s reopening plan to hire additional workers in schools. However TDSB Chair Robin Pilkey has said that it would cost $250 million to make the necessary changes to allow for physical distancing at TDSB schools alone.

Unions and other critics have slammed the province’s school reopening plans as drastically underfunded.

The Ministry has said that parents have the option of keeping their children home to learn remotely if they wish to do so.

In its reopening plan, the TDSB said that it is continuing to call on the provincial government to reduce elementary class sizes because of the pandemic.

“The Province of Ontario has put up a good fight to reduce the spread of COVID-19. But in under a month, over 250,000 public school students and thousands of staff will re-enter Toronto’s public schools during this unprecedented pandemic,” the document states.

“Additional Ministry funding to lower elementary school class sizes will respond not only to the advice of health professionals but also to the tens of thousands of parents and educators from all over Toronto and the GTA, who share the view that lower class sizes will help Toronto’s and Ontario’s fight to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

The TDSB is inviting parents to attend a webinar on the reopening plan for schools on Aug. 13 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.