Toronto school board prepares for September with possibly no French and shortened days
TORONTO -- The Ontario government's planned rules for when school resumes in September could cost the Toronto District School Board as much as $250 million, with the board possibly shortening school days and not offering French to most students as a result.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce advocated cohorts of 15 students and one teacher when he announced a possible “hybrid” model of in-class learning and remote learning for September, but the board says this model “will force parents to choose between educating their children and their own employment.”
So the board says in a new planning document to be considered today that if they group all elementary students into cohorts of 15, with one teacher through the day that would require the hiring of nearly 2,500 additional teachers at a cost of $249 million.
Ending the day 48 minutes early would reduce the cost to $99 million.
But in this scenario, there would not be enough teachers to offer even core French language instruction to all students.
The board says all unused space throughout its schools would be needed to accommodate students in this setting.
If only classes from kindergarten to Grade 3 were kept to 15 students, with the rest set at 20 kids, the board says French would still be unavailable, and 1,900 new teachers would be needed, at a cost of $190 million.
If kids were dismissed 48 minutes early each day, they would need 200 new teachers at a cost of $20 million.
Board spokesperson Ryan Bird said the cohorting of kids into groups of 15 is just one option of many, and they wanted the public to know what that would look like.
“We’re looking at a number of different options and that is just one,” he said. “You’d have thousands of new classes you’d have to create and you’d need new staff to lead.”
While Lecce earlier told boards to prepare for a hybrid model of learning, he said last week that his preference would be for students to be in class five days per week.
Just the purchase of PPE and other costs associated with the pandemic, provided all schools operate exactly the way they did otherwise before the pandemic started, will cost the TDSB nearly $22 million for the first four months of the school year.
They indicate the Ministry of Education has not provided enough funding to even cover this shortfall.
Premier Doug Ford said Wednesday that his government’s education budget for 2020-2021 is $750 million larger than last year, meaning the TDSB will get $55 million more due to its size.
He said that the plans for cohorting students or moving everything online were just precautions they developed given the state of the pandemic in Ontario last month.
“Just keep in mind when we came out with our announcement – we were averaging 247 cases a day – now a month down the road we’re averaging a little over a 100 cases,” he said. “I just wish I had a crystal ball to see how we’ll look a month down the road or two months down the road.”
He said the most likely plan for September remains that students will return to school five days per week, with public health measures in place.
The board says it will share its final model for the school year with the Ministry of Education on Aug. 4.