Dear parents, caregivers and community members,
It is hard to believe we are a week away from winter break! Despite the pandemic and the inability of schools to host traditional winter concerts and large-scale holiday events, it has been lovely to see new, creative ways schools are getting into the winter spirit, both in virtual classrooms and in our bricks and mortar buildings. One of the most common words used in 2020 includes "pivot", and that certainly does appear to be happening in classrooms across the TDSB!
For many of us in Ward 11, the last week and a half has been spent more than ever focussed on Covid testing. As many of you are surely aware, three of our Ward 11 schools have been participating in voluntary school-wide testing and are currently closed while Toronto Public Health (TPH) conducts contact tracing.
I want to thank everyone who worked so hard to get these pilot programs off the ground and to continue student learning throughout these last several days, including: the Thorncliffe community partners who have worked tirelessly with families; TDSB teachers, administrators and staff; Toronto Public Health staff; and, not to be forgotten, the staff from Michael Garron Hospital/East Toronto Health Partners, who have been running these testing initiatives in Thorncliffe Park and made themselves available to support the local schools. All of these groups of individuals have been instrumental in making a difference in the community. And to the families, who have stepped forward to participate, thank you for your cooperation. These pilots are important in keeping our communities safe and our schools open in the long run, and will hopefully help TPH learn more about how this virus is circulating and what steps we can do to make it safer for everyone. One such first step, as all of you will be aware, has been a change to our screening for children coming to school that was launched just this past Monday.
With all of these developments and the many questions and concerns that have come across my desk over the last couple of weeks, it seemed parents and caregivers would find it helpful to hear directly from the experts at Toronto Public Health. I hope many of you will be able to join me on Monday evening, December 14th, for a virtual Ward Forum featuring Dr. Vinita Dubey, Associate Medical Officer of Health for Toronto Public Health, among others. To learn more about the event and to register, please click here.
In this newsletter...
While is has been less than three weeks since my last newsletter, there is a significant amount of new information to report. Below, you will find items on Return-to-School updates, grade-specific news, Covid-related updates, Board news, Parent engagement updates, and more.
Return to School update - December 8
On Tuesday, December 8, senior staff shared a Return to School Update with Trustees.
The agenda included:
- Provincial Covid-19 Testing Update
(including pilot of voluntary school-wide testing)
- New Screening Tool
- Secondary Virtual School Update
(quad 1 report cards, staffing, newsletters, and more)
- Elementary School Update
(progress reports, staffing, grade 8 to 9 transition, professional learning, and more)
Second round of one-time Funding for Parents in Ontario
Included in the Province of Ontario’s Budget announced on November 5, 2020, is another one-time payment to help offset the costs of the pandemic. There will be a $200 one-time payment per child aged 12 and under, and a $250 payment for a child aged 21 or younger with special needs.
A similar payment was offered to parents in the first wave of the pandemic.
Cheques are expected to begin being issued by the end of December. Applications can be made through the Ontario governments “Support for Families portal”. Please don't delay in applying for this funding if you have a child under the age of 12; the deadline is January 15, 2021. Full information is on the Support for Learners website.
Kindergarten to Grade 1 Individual Education Plan (IEP) Strategy
High expectations for learning lead to better academic outcomes and improved well-being for students. Recently, staff presented trustees with a strategy to address the overrepresentation of black students in special education plans.
You can read about the underlying data, the purpose, and the timeline: here.
Grade 3 Universal Screening Process
Because of the COVID 19 pandemic and staggered entry to school, the annual TDSB’s Universal Screening Process using the Canadian Cognitive Abilities Test 7 (CCAT 7) for Grade 3 students was delayed. This test provides information to classroom teachers about the strengths and learning needs of each student in order to better support teachers with programming.
The CCAT 7, which typically has been administered in October, will now be administered in the coming months. We have a total of 17,758 Grade 3 students that require testing: 11, 467 in bricks and mortar, and 6,291 in virtual school.
Middle French Immersion Registration
Attention Grade 3 Parents!
From January 4 - 29, 2021, current grade 3 students, not already enrolled in Early French Immersion, can apply to start Middle French Immersion in September 2021, their Grade 4 year. Information about this NEW program is available here - in 22 languages!
Middle French Immersion offers 100% French instruction in grades 4 and 5. In grades 6-8, 75% of the instruction is in French with English and Science taught in English. If necessary, for timetabling, specialist subjects, like gym, may be taught in English.
In high school, Middle and Early French Immersion students will be in the same immersion program and will do 10 credits in French.
Middle French Immersion is being offered at 40 elementary schools across the TDSB. All on-time applicants are guaranteed a placement in the program but are not guaranteed a specific school. Bussing or TTC tickets are provided for elementary students according to TDSB transportation policy and procedures.
Virtual information sessions are being held on January 14 (10am), 21 (7pm), and 27 (7pm). Details and meetings links will be: here.
Applying for Middle French Immersion can be done: here.
- Step 1: Apply between Jan 4 - 29, 2021
- Step 2: Check the email you provided on the application regularly, including junk mail folders, for an offer of placement. Carefully note the deadline for responding in the offer of placement email.
- Step 3: Accept the placement by the deadline.
Further French program information is here.
- the grade 4 entry Extended French program is no longer being offered.
- During January 2021, current grade 6 students can apply to enter the Extended French program in September 2021, their grade 7 year. Applications are made directly to the Extended French grade 7 school. Watch for details here.
French as a Second Language - December Newsletter
FSLAC, the French as a Second Language Advisory Committee of the TDSB, has issued another one of their incredibly informative newsletters. This month, it contains not only information about French programs, but also an enormous amount of resources - online and otherwise. The list of contents of the newsletter:
- Attention Grade 3 Parents (Middle French Immersion registration)
- Mandy Helps with FSL Success
- Free CPF Membership
- Listening Tips
- Free Bibliothèque des Amériques
- Free E-books
- Virtual Visiting
- Age 13+ Summer French
- Age 16-17 French Summer Job Exchange
- Meet Lynne FSLAC Parent Co-chair
- Share this Newsletter
- Join Us!
Transition to High School Parent Information Sessions
To support families and Grade 8 students, TDSB hosted four Grade 8 to Grade 9 Transitions Information Sessions for Parents. They focused on the Top 10 Tips and Considerations in the Transition to High School process. This presentation was designed to augment the work already taking place through virtual secondary open houses and at the Grade 8 schools.
Presenters highlighted the key practical aspects of the process of transitioning to high school, as well as share common social-emotional factors that often surface with Grade 8 students at the time of and during this transition.
- Renée Rawlins, Program Coordinator Guidance & Career Development
- Georgia Gallagher, Centrally Assigned Principal (Acting)
- Volunteer Secondary Guidance Staff – to help answer general high school and program specific questions that may arise during the presentation.
The Zoom sessions can be rewatched:
(all four presentations will be mostly the same, with exception of course of the live chat replay and questions answered)
The list of High School Virtual Open Houses and Information Sessions can be found: here.
Grade 9 EQAO Assessment of Mathematics Field Test
Secondary Schools will participate in the Grade 9 EQAO Assessment of Mathematics Online Adaptive Field Test for Quad 2 between January 28 and February 4th. The EQAO assessment will only be available for students attending school in-person. Students attending Virtual Secondary School or attending their home school remotely will not be participating.
In preparation for the administration of the EQAO Field Test, models of implementation and distribution and safe use of technology devices will be determined by schools based on their local context. IT Services has ensured all aspects of system technical readiness, including the availability of the Safe Exam Browser on TDSB Chromebooks, PCs and iPads, as well as bandwidth and internet speed.
Schools shall always place the needs of students at the centre of their decisions. There may be unique exceptional circumstances for specific students or even schools where it may not be possible or ideal to participate in the EQAO field test. Where there are unique circumstances for students and/or schools to not participate, principals are encouraged to reach out to their LN Superintendents to discuss how they can be supported.
Students not participating will remain with their cohort but engage in alternative and independent learning activities with limited supervision while their classroom teacher supervises the EQAO Field Test.
Schools will create plans to accommodate all students who require accommodations and special provisions (i.e., students with special education needs or English Language Learners).
Individual students’ results will not count towards their grades, unless the marks are used to improve a student’s final mark and agreed to by the teacher and student in consultation with the parents/guardians.
Finally, information from EQAO about student learning in mathematics may help staff understand better the impact of modified learning environments on student math learning as a result of COVID-19. The Research and Development Team is looking forward to partnering with secondary schools in supporting students while they complete this assessment as it may offer important information for the overall evaluation in relation to potential math learning outcomes for TDSB Grade 9 students.
The TDSB Optional Attendance Policy provides a mechanism for students to attend schools and programs outside of their home catchment (by residential address). Optional Attendance for individual destination schools is listed as either:
- "Open" - accepting application
- "Limited" - accepting applications but with limited capacit
- "Closed" - no room for optional attendance
Schools with specialized programs will have additional criteria for admission; some schools require a supplementary application and some have highly-specific requirements for admission. The Optional Attendance Policy has not changed for the 2021-22 school year. Students may apply to two regular schools beyond the home school (determined by residential address) and two specialized schools/programs. School counsellors and parents/guardians can help determine if choices are in line with the educational plans students have been working towards.
Optional Attendance information is available at https://www.tdsb.on.ca/Find-your/School/Optional-Attendance, including the Policy, the Operational Procedure, Application information (elementary schools, secondary schools), and deadlines (elementary school forms due February 21, 2021, secondary school forms due January 29, 2021).
Post-Secondary Information Session
TDSB held a Post-Secondary Information Session on Tuesday, November 24. It was aimed at helping parents/guardians and students better understand the post-secondary admissions process during COVID-19.
Several post-secondary institutions participated, and the highly-informative session can be re-watched: here.
International language classes
The International Languages – Elementary / African Heritage Program is offering online language classes to students (TDSB and non TDSB) Kindergarten to Grade 8. One day each week, students have live face-to-face interactive lessons with their instructor and classmates for approximately 30 minutes. Activities are focused on building student’s abilities in oral communication, reading and writing.
Visit www.ILEprograms.ca for more information. Twitter: @TDSB_ConEd
Updates to Student COVID-19 Screening Procedures
Toronto Public Health announced on December 4 that it has updated its COVID-19 student screening tool to prevent further opportunities for virus spread
As part of this guidance, if a child has one or more new, or worsening COVID-19 symptoms, parents will now be required to:
- Keep their child home.
- Keep siblings and other children home, even if they do not have symptoms.
- Arrange for the child to get tested or contact their health care provider.
- Without testing, the child must stay home for 10 days.
- Monitor the family for symptoms. Adults must stay home if they have one or more symptoms.
Health and Safety Measures
The health and safety of students, staff and school communities continues to be the main priority of the Toronto District School Board. Read more about the TDSB’s health and safety measures, including daily health screening, mask and face covering requirements and the response plan.
For more information about COVID-19, please visit www.toronto.ca/covid19.
Active COVID-19 in Schools Advisories
The Toronto District School Board is committed to providing up-to-date information about confirmed cases of COVID-19 in schools (students and staff). This information is easily accessible by clicking on the Covid-19 Advisories banner on the main webpage www.tdsb.on.ca
Please note that all schools where there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 will receive a letter from Toronto Public Health to inform them about the possible exposure. If individuals or classes need to quarantine or self-isolate, they will be informed specifically.
Covid-testing sites: Thorncliffe, Flemingdon (both extended through December!), and Sunnybrook
In and near Ward 11, there are several places to get a Covid-test, including Sunnybrook Hospital (2075 Bayview Ave, U-Wing). Info (including pre-booking your appointment): here.
The City of Toronto, in cooperation with East Toronto Health Partners, has also opened a number of additional test centres in East Toronto, including:
Flemingdon Park: Dennis R. Timbrell Resource Centre (29 St Dennis Dr.
Open November 3 to 30 Open December 11–13, 18–20 and 27.
Hours: 1 to 7 p.m.
Flemingdon Park: Angela James Arena (165 Grenoble Dr.)
Open December 14–16, 21–23 and 28–30
Hours: 1 to 7 p.m.
Thorncliffe: TNO Youth Centre (45 Overlea Blvd., Unit 108A)
Open every day for the month of December, except on Christmas Day (December 25) and Boxing Day (December 26).
- Dec. 5–12 from 9 a.m.–7 p.m. (Extended hours)
- Dec. 13–24 and Dec. 27–31 from 1–7 p.m.
- Closed on Dec. 25 and 26
You may also book an appointment in advance at this site by calling 647-477-1640.
Covid: Stay Healthy during Flu Season
Flu season is here again. In Canada, flu season tends to run between October and April. The Ontario government is encouraging Ontarians to avoid getting sick this flu season by getting their annual flu shot.
Toronto Public Health is recommending that whenever students and staff experience flu-like symptoms, they are sent home and do not return to school until they are no longer infectious to others. Therefore, ill students and staff should be symptom-free (especially from vomiting and diarrhea) for at least 48 hours before returning to school. The primary concern is for the health and safety of all students and staff. As parents, you can also assist by:
- Reminding children to wash their hands often especially after using the washroom and before and after eating
- Reminding children to cover their sneeze and cough;
- Watching for symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, and/or high fever;
- Informing the school if your child is ill;
- Keeping your child at home when he/she is ill.
For more information, please visit the Toronto Public Health website, contact your family doctor, or call Telehealth Ontario 1-866-797-0000.
The flu vaccine is free for people six months of age and older who live, work or attend school in Ontario. A health card is not required at a TPH clinic. Flu clinic appointments can be booked online at www.tphbookings.ca.
Winter is Coming: Ventilation, Transportation, and Snow Days.
Over the past few months, the TDSB has checked all mechanical HVAC systems to ensure they are operating as designed, increased the frequency of filter changes, adjusted systems to increase the amount of fresh air and reduce recirculation, added portable HEPA air filter units in classrooms where mechanical ventilation is not an option, and opened windows where possible. Read more: here.
Ventilation, Fresh air: As we head into the colder months of the year, open windows will continue to be an important step to increase fresh air in classrooms and schools. Toronto Public Health is recommending that windows in classrooms should be opened for a period of time, at different points of the day to introduce fresh air into the space and increase air flow. While heating systems will be turned up, we still expect that schools will be cooler than normal.
We recognize it is very much a balance between introducing more ventilation at various times during the day and maintaining a comfortable indoor air temperature in classrooms. Please keep this in mind as your child gets ready for school each day by considering an extra layer of clothing to ensure comfort throughout the day. Read more: here.
Student Transportation: From time to time, it may be necessary to cancel student transportation, classes and/or programs because of severe weather. On rare occasions, severe weather makes it necessary to close schools, administrative offices or sites.
With approximately 246,000 students in 582 schools, any decision to cancel buses, classes and/or programs or to close sites can have a significant impact on thousands of families across Toronto. This decision is not taken lightly. When schools remain open on days with inclement weather, parents/guardians make the final decision on whether to send their children to school and they can keep children home from school if they so choose.
Traffic Safety Tips: Help Make this a Safe Winter Season
As winter approaches, we know that severe weather will be part of our daily lives for the next several months. While traffic safety is an important matter all year long, this is a particularly good time to review what we can do to keep students safe.
The need to be aware and alert at all times, on any road, and even in the most routine circumstances, is key to traffic safety. This applies to students and drivers alike. Road conditions can be challenging in the winter months. So to those of us who drive, please take extra care on the roads and in parking lots, especially in areas where children might be present.
School staff periodically review street and traffic safety with students. Parents can help reinforce these safety messages with children at home. Below are some tips that might be helpful to review.
- Wear appropriate footwear to reduce the chances of slipping
- Stop, look, and listen for traffic.
- Walk on the right side of the crosswalk
- Walk on sidewalks.
- Only cross at corners and crosswalks.
- Obey crossing signals.
- Cross only if clear.
- Make eye contact with drivers.
- Never run into the street.
- Where there are no sidewalks, walk as far away from traffic as possible, facing traffic.
The safety of our students is always a top priority. Let's work together to make the winter season safe so we can enjoy all it has to offer.
Parents needed for Vice Principal Interviews (deadline Dec.14)
Parents have a voice in who will be administrators in our schools!
Each year, the TDSB interviews teacher candidates for vice-principal positions. As part of this process, there is a parent on each interview team.
Parents interested in participating in this process are required to attend a short, mandatory training session, Feb. 9, 5:00-8:00pm. The interview sessions for Spring 2021 are a full-day commitment: 8am – 4pm. Interviews will be held on 2 of the following 3 days: Feb. 23, Feb. 24, Mar. 2. Parents will be scheduled for only 1 of the interview days.
Interested parents/caregivers should complete the Expression of Interest PVP 2021 no later than Monday, December 14.
The TDSB Board of Trustees met on Wednesday, December 9.
Among other things, the Board unanimously passed a motion encouraging further development of outdoor learning. As staff begin the work of operationalizing this direction, short and long-term plans will be developped and brought to Trustees in the new year through the Program and School Services Committee. I will endeavour to keep everyone apprised of these exciting developments.
Also last night, the Board reported that the search for a permanent Director of Education has been paused and will resume in the new year when we hope Toronto will be out of the Covid-19 grey zone.
In the meantime, an Interim Director Search Committee has been struck, and a new Interim Director will soon be announced and in place by the end of the year, when our current Interim Director, Dr. Kathy Witherow, retires. We very much appreciate Dr. Witherow's service over the last couple of years at the TDSB, and wish her all the best in this next chapter!
The only remaining Committee meeting on the Calendar for 2020 is an extra meeting of the Finance, Budget, and Enrolment Committee (FBEC) next Wednesday.
On next year's calendar:
- January 13: Governance & Policy Committee
- January 13: Program & School Services Committee
- January 20: Finance, Budget & Enrollment Committee
- January 27: Planning & Priorities Meeting
- February 3: Full Board Meeting.
The Parent Involvement Advisory Committee will be meeting on Tuesday, December 15. PIAC consists of parent representatives from all across the Board who, together with staff, advise the Board of Trustees, the Director of Education, and the Ministry on all aspects of parent engagement.
On the Agenda, among other things:
- TDSB Budget
- Updates from the Board of Trustees, Director of Education (or designate), and the Parent & Community Engagement Office (PCEO)
- Working Group updates regarding Virtual Engagement, PIAC Events, and Communicatoins & Outreach
PIAC meetings start at 7pm, are open to public for listening, and can be attended virtually: here.
2021 Prime Minister's Awards
Please note the announcement of the nomination period for three important Awards:
The Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence - These awards honour outstanding and innovative elementary and secondary school teachers in all disciplines for their remarkable educational achievements and for their commitment to preparing their students for a digital and innovation‑based economy.
The Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence in STEM -
These awards recognize inspirational Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) teachers at the elementary or secondary school level who keep students engaged in STEM learning and who help develop the culture of innovation that Canada needs today, and in the future
For more information on those two awards, please click here.
The Prime Minister's Awards for Excellence in Early Childhood Education - These awards honour outstanding and innovative early childhood educators for their leadership, exemplary early childhood education practices, and their commitment to help build the foundation children need to make the best possible start in life. For more information, please click here.
Nomination packages must be submitted to the Prime Minister's Awards program office by January 12, 2021 — 11:59 a.m. Pacific Time
Adult English as a Second Language
Gaining proficiency in English is a critical skill for many newcomers to our city. Every year, nearly 20,000 adults benefit from the TDSB's English as a Second Language classes. Through general language training, and a host of specialized courses, TDSB serves learners at all levels - from those with little or no formal education to those with post-secondary degrees. Currently, all Adult ESL classes are on-line
Continuing Education: Community Programs
Online Learn4Life winter registration began December 2. Take up a new hobby or learn a language from home. Stay active with one of the many fitness classes, or gain knowledge on how to invest in the stock market. Classes are for adults 18 + and seniors, and start the week of Saturday, January 23, 2021
TDSB: Heritage and History Months
Asian Heritage Month: Invitation to Participate in Planning Committee
At the moment we are lending our focus on Asian Heritage Month which is recognized during the month of May. This is a call-out for individuals to join a volunteer planning committee to develop system-wide activities for students, staff and the TDSB community. The mandate of the volunteer planning committee is to provide learning opportunities for students, staff and the TDSB community, as well as to enrich the curriculum resources through a collaborative approach of TDSB staff, community members and Trustees.
Details of the first Asian Heritage Month Planning Committee meeting is noted below for your reference. We hope you will be able to be part of our planning committee.
Should you require additional information on Asian Heritage Month, please contact Peter Chang, System Superintendent (Interim), and Senior Team Lead for Asian Heritage Month at email@example.com or contact Dani Carnevale, Service Co-ordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Navigate 211 Ontario Info Session Dec.15 - Find Services in your Community
Did you know you can call 211 any time of the day for information on, and referrals to, Ontario's community, social, health, and government services? You can also search their database for housing, legal, employment, youth services and more. Find services for mental health, housing, legal, emergency, employment and more.
211 can help you understand what services and government benefits exist, and explain how to apply.
211 is answered 24 hours a day, every day of the year across Ontario. They list over 60,000 community and governemtn programs and services.
They can also provide an interpreter in over 150 languages. When 211 answers the phone, ask for the language you want and hold the line.
Learn more in a Conversation organized by the TDSB Community Support Workers, in cooperation with 211, on Tuesday, December 15, 2020 - from 6:30pm. Meeting Link.
Supporting United Way & Toronto Foundation of Student Success (TFSS)
COVID-19 has had a heavy impact on our TDSB community. Usually at this time of the year, TDSB Staff, Students, and Trustees are climbing the CN Tower and participating in Board-wide fundraising events in support of United Way. This year, when the need is greatest, these events are impossible.
Schools have been participating in local fundraising initiatives and as a Board we also want to demonstrate our commitment to these important causes and show our continued support for our communities. Next week, an email will be sent to all staff members with the options to support TDSB’s registered charities: United Way Greater Toronto and Toronto Foundation for Student Success (TFSS).
United Way Greater Toronto – TDSB and United Way Greater Toronto have had a partnership for many years that supports funding for many of our community supports and programs within our schools and neighbourhoods. They also have services including 211 – the telephone line and online directory service TDSB has been sharing that connects users with vital community and social resources, close to home and specific to their needs (see above).
Toronto Foundation for Student Success – TFSS is the charitable organization dedicated to supporting the TDSB and its students by helping to remove barriers through initiatives such as nutrition programs, beyond 3:30 after school programs, hearing and optometry clinics, and recently their emergency fund.
This year has been different for us in so many ways, and now, more than ever, our communities are in need of support.
Finally, as yesterday marked the first night of Chanukah, I want to wish all those of the Jewish faith a holiday filled with warmth and light.
And with that, I hope to see many of you on Zoom on Monday evening at the ward forum (details to the right!).
Rachel Chernos Lin