Toronto school board trustees ask province to reconsider back-to-school plan
A Toronto District School Board sign is shown in front of a high school in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
TORONTO -- Toronto District School Board trustees are asking for the province to reconsider its back-to-school plan, which they say will leave many families to choose between educating their children and their jobs.
During a special meeting Thursday evening, trustees voted to ask TDSB Chair Robin Pilkey to write to Education Minister Stephen Lecce to express their concern about the current plan.
The provincial government announced in June that school boards would be expected to prepare plans for three scenarios -- full resumption of regular in-class instruction with strict public health measures, an online-only learning, and a hybrid model blending in-class and remote learning.
In a report, the board stated that the hybrid model “places a tremendous burden on parents and caregivers --and, in particular, women, families with young children and low-income families, and, stands to further jeopardize the economic recovery.”
“We want to ensure that all students can return in September in the safest way possible, but we must also recognize that if the Ministry of Education does not permit them to return every day, it will put many of the families of 247,000 TDSB students in a very difficult position — not to mention the families of thousands of TDSB staff,” Pilkey said in a statement.
In addition, trustees are asking the province to provide emergency funding for all extra costs brought on by COVID-19. These include additional staffing, additional transportation, IT devices, mental health and well-being supports, cleaning supplies and repair/maintenance.
Board trustees are also requesting the province to delay the implementation of its new math curriculum until schools are no longer impacted by COVID-19.
In June, Ontario announced that coding, computer storage measurements and personal finance terms will be introduced starting in Grade 1, as part of a bid to improve sliding EQAO math scores.
Following the announcement, the unions representing public English and French teachers in elementary and high school said in a statement that implementing the curriculum this fall is unrealistic and counterproductive.
“The changes to the math curriculum are substantial and will require significant time, collaboration and new resources to be properly implemented,” the unions said in joint statement.
The board noted in a report that it supports the unions statement.
A delay will allow staff to focus on the health and safety of students and allow for additional professional learning, the board said.
“We recognize that the Ministry of Education has made a change to the math curriculum and expects it to be in place this September, but as students and staff — still dealing with pandemic-related issues — return to school, we want them to focus on this critical transition and not on learning a new way to do math,” Pilkey said.