UCDSB school year plan reviewed tonight

(Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

BROCKVILLE – While saying its preference is to have a “full return of all students to regular classes five days per week,” the Upper Canada District School Board will lay out its plan for the upcoming school year.

The board will hold a special meeting tonight (Wednesday) where Education Director Stephen Sliwa will present the plan for the 2020-2021 school year to trustees.

The province asked school boards to come up with plans under three scenarios: a normal school week, a blend of in-class and at-home learning, and full distance learning.

Regardless of what plan it ends up doing, the report says the board is buying 200 movable plexiglass shields for school offices and $750,000 in more personal protective equipment.

It also plans to get rid of split shifts for custodians – a cost of $900,000 – money Sliwa says will be “partially offset” through savings in the last round of provincial bargaining. The board will also increase the pool of casual teachers by “nearly 300” through a “large-scale hiring strategy.”

In his report, Sliwa says the board will not be expected to screen students for COVID-like symptoms – that will be up to parents and families.

The board is also planning for so-called “wellness centers” in each school where children who fall under the weather during the school day would be isolated, but the plans for those spaces are still in their infancy.

As for the scenario of a blended learning environment of in-home and in-class instruction, elementary students would go three days one week, followed by two days the following week. For high school students, it would be 105 minutes of face-to-face instruction “in each course in a four-day cycle,” going to school alternate days between 8 a.m. and noon.

“It is understood that the adapted model is not a preferred model for working families and it can lead to confusion that comes with children not having the routine of regular school,” Sliwa writes.

As for the plan for having schooling entirely at home, the board is already planning on buying another 1,100 mobile computers for student use and is exploring options for a Bell internet hot spot program for families who don’t have internet service.

The special board meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.