Dear parents, caregivers and community members,
My apologies for an earlier draft of this email sent about an hour ago -- it had one of the dates in the secondary quadmester listed incorrectly, and has been corrected in this version. So without further adieu, read on!
Last week, our in-school students started the 2020/2021 school year like no school year has ever begun in our lifetimes. From the bottom of my heart, a huge thank you to all staff and teachers for all the planning and hard work that went into making our first week back a success under very difficult circumstances. It was very moving to see all the happy faces - masked and all - of students seeing their teachers - and vice versa!
This week, students enrolled in remote learning will start their school year in the Virtual School. Almost 60,000 elementary students are now registered in four brand new Virtual Schools (Ward 11 elementary students will be part of the Learning Centre 1 school), and more than 15,000 students will the TDSB's Virtual High School.
With health and safety being our top priority, TDSB staff have moved mountains very quickly create the Virtual Schools and to make our physical schools as safe as possible. Already just this week, we have seen many, many examples of learning adjusted for the era of Covid, and creative lessons adapted for online platforms like BrightSpace and Google Classrooms.
We know parents and caregivers continue to have questions, and I encourage everyone to check out the TDSB's website as more and more information is made regularly updated and added. In the meantime, however, please read on below for updates about the following items (and perhaps a little more!):
- New Quadmester calendar for High Schools
- Virtual Schools: new web pages, Brightspace links, more information
plus Brightspace overview sessions on September 21!
- Virtual School Parents/Guardians without e-mail on file
- Virtual School French Program (elementary)
- Virtual School Specialized Programs, Graduation/Diplomas, Student Support Opportunities (secondary)
- Virtual School: Exemptions from minimum requirements of Synchronous (live online) Learning
- Switching between in-person and virtual learning
- Access to Devices
- Air filtration & ventilation: HEPA filter units
- Check Lists for Elementary & Secondary
- More Return to School Information
- Mental Health Video series - for students & families
- Parent Involvement Advisory Committee: meeting September 22
- Search for a new Director for the TDSB
TRANSPORTATION UPDATE - week of September 21, 2020
All remaining students who were not bused in the week of September 14, 2020, will begin receiving transportation this week as the final phase of implementation of transportation is rolled out.
Our bus carriers have assured the Toronto Student Transportation Group (TSTG) that they have sufficient drivers to cover routes as of Monday, so automated phone calls will be made to parents this weekend to remind them about the resumption of transportation services. Please note that in the opening days each year, delays are possible as routes and lists are confirmed. We are working hard to keep such delays to an absolute minimum.
The transportation companies have reported that all drivers have been provided with health and safety training around COVID-19 related issues, including the use of masks and customer service training around how to work with students who cannot wear a mask.
TSTG has also contracted a company to conduct 60 second videos on mask use, physical distancing, hand hygiene and other safe practices to support the students, families and drivers. These videos can be located: here.
For everybody not on the school bus, a guide for active travel to and from schools is: here.
Further questions can be answered via the Transportation Portal, e-mail email@example.com, or call 647-790-3829.
NEW QUADMESTER CALENDAR FOR HIGH SCHOOLS
Due to the delayed start date for most secondary schools, the secondary quadmester calendar has been adjusted. The new quadmester dates are:
- Quad 1: September 17 - November 17 + Exams November 18 & 19
- Quad 2: November 23 - February 2 + Exams February 3 & 4
- Quad 3: February 8 - April 20 + Exams April 21 & 22
- Quad 4: April 23 - June 23 + Exams June 24, 25, 28
Students attending the Virtual School begin on Tuesday, September 22. In high school, these students will follow the quadmester schedule above. Although the Virtual School is starting later than in-person secondary schools, because students will be taking both classes each day (one-day cycle), the different start date will not have an impact that requires a change of quadmester dates.
In addition, the secondary PA Day (originally sheduled for February 2, 2021) has been changed to February 5 to align with the new quadmester dates. The secondary PA Days are now:
- November 20 (board-wide PA Day)
- February 5 (secondary PA Day - NEW)
- February 12 (board-wide PA Day)
- June 29 (secondary PA Day)
Because of this change, February 1 & 2 are now instructional days, February 3 & 4 are exam days, and February 5 is a PA Day for Secondary schools.
The full School Year Calendar (both elementary & secondary schools) is: here.
VIRTUAL SCHOOLS: NEW WEB PAGES, BRIGHTSPACE LINKS - plus Brightspace overview sessions September 21
The TDSB's Return to School web portal now has new pages for elementary and secondary virtual schools. It includes dates (the Virtual School starts Tuesday, September 22), contact information, program outlines, and information about class sizes, device access, exemptions from synchronous learning (whole or partial), switches to and from in-person learning, and more.
On September 21, TDSB will organize two Brightspace Overview sessions:
More technology links:
VIRTUAL SCHOOL PARENTS/GUARDIANS WITHOUT E-MAIL ON FILE
Attention Virtual School Parents/Guardians: If you received a phone message from TDSB indicating that we do not have an email address on file for you, please complete this form to provide one: here.
VIRTUAL SCHOOL FRENCH PROGRAMS (elementary)
Each of the four Elementary Virtual Schools will have offerings of French Immersion and Extended French Programs.
VIRTUAL SCHOOL SPECIALIZED PROGRAMS, GRADUATION/DIPLOMAS, STUDENT SUPPORT OPPORTUNITIES (secondary)
Specialized programs: In order to run a course, approximately 30 students are required. Where possible, courses that make up the components of a Specialized Program in a student’s original in-person school home school will be offered by the Secondary Virtual School. However, not all programs will be able to run, as it may not be possible to have teachers with specialized training (i.e. International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement) for specific specialty courses. It should be noted that students who elect virtual will have their specialty program spots held for next year even if their specialty program isn't running in full in virtual school.
Graduation/Diplomas: Students who register at the Secondary Virtual School will be able to participate in the graduation activities at their home school. Similarly, the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) or Ontario Secondary School Certificate (OSSC) will be issued by the home school.
Student Support Opportunities: All students in the Secondary Virtual School will have access to student support through guidance counselors, special education teachers, social workers, students success teachers, and child and youth counselors.
EXEMPTION FROM MINIMUM REQUIREMENT OF SYNCHRONOUS (LIVE ONLINE) LEARNING
In accordance with requirements outlined by the Ministry of Education in Policy/Program Memorandum No. 164, individual requests for an exemption from the minimum requirements for synchronous learning will be made to the School Superintendent. The superintendent will ensure that alternative learning approaches are put in place for all exempted students, and will respond in writing to all exemption requests. Teachers will be responsible for all aspects of instructional programming for exempted students. Approved exemptions will be stored in the student’s Ontario Student Record and will expire three months after the date of approval. Exemptions can be extended beyond the 3-month period by re-applying for another exemption prior to the expiration date.
More information about the minimum requirements, application deadlines (first on September 29), and more, can be found: here.
SWITCHING BETWEEN IN-PERSON AND VIRTUAL LEARNING
The TDSB recognizes that parents/guardians and/or students may want to switch between in-person learning and Virtual School. It is important to note that, for health and safety reasons, and because of the impact switching would have on staffing, physical distancing and space allocation, it will not be possible to immediately transition between the two models.
As a result, opportunities to enter the Virtual School or to return to in-person learning will be provided at key dates during the school year. For elementary schools, the dates are: here. For secondary school, the dates are: here.
Movement from one model to another will be requested through the Principal of the student’s home school. If a switch is required outside of the designated times, a limited number of exceptions may be made and will be reviewed by staff on a case-by-case basis.
ACCESS TO DEVICES
Every student in the Virtual School, and all students in the Hybrid/Adapted Model high schools, will be required to have a device.
For those without access to a device, please contact the student’s home school Principal to make a request.
AIR FILTRATION & VENTILATION: HEPA FILTERS UNITS
Many parents and caregivers have inquired about whether High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter units are to be installed in all classrooms in order to improve ventilation.
It is important to distinguish between filtration and ventilation, as the terms are often used synonymously. Filtration is the process of removing particulate matter from the air, as it passes through the filter media. HEPA filters are more efficient filters and remove finer particulate matter than other types of filters, including particulate matter as small as the COVID virus. Ventilation is the process of increasing air flow into a space in order to provide greater volumes of fresh air. This increase in fresh air has the impact of diluting the air in the space, reducing the potential for the transmission of COVID.
HEPA filter systems recirculate the air in the room and filter it, trapping particulate in the filter media. HEPA filter units do not increase the air flow/cubic feet per minute into a room, nor do they increase the number of fresh air changes per hour. These are achieved by increasing ventilation, using either mechanical ventilation means (such. as HVAC) or by natural ventilation created by opening windows. Based on the advice of Toronto Public Health, our focus to date as it relates to ventilation has been ensuring that where mechanical ventilation currently exists, that they have been reviewed and serviced to ensure they are operating as designed. We have also increased fresh air intake levels, minimized the use of air recirculation modes and are increasing run times of systems to flush out the building 2 hours prior to occupancy each day.
While the science on this issue is evolving, the current advice from TPH is that COVID is not easily aerosolized and travels primarily by respiratory droplets. As these droplets are heavy, they typically only travel appx 2 metres before settling on a nearby surface. Once on that surface they have a limited lifespan and are easily addressed using common disinfectant products. In many cases, the respiratory droplets would land on a surface before being drawn into the filter system. Because of this, while the use of HEPA filter can contribute to improved indoor air quality, the units are not a solution to improve overall ventilation rates. That would be best achieved by use of mechanical systems where available, or by opening windows and interior doors to encourage natural cross ventilation.
That being said, TDSB is currently reviewing the use of these units in rooms with limited ability to provide fresh air, or at schools with limited ventilation in areas of the city with higher infections rates. During the pandemic, we are accepting monetary donations, through the COVID-19 Central Relief Fund, for the purchase of these units at the system level, where they can be deployed based on need. We are in the process of finalizing the criteria for determining which schools/classrooms might receive HEPA filters, but the criteria may include things such as the classroom ventilation, class size vs. space available, infection risk rating, etc.
Should the advice on transmission methods from TPH change, we will review our practices and adjust as appropriate.
MENTAL HEALTH VIDEO SERIES - for students & families
The Toronto District School Board has released a series of short videos called Mental Health Moments.
Featuring Professional Support Services Staff, these videos provide tips on mental health and well-being for students and parents/guardian.The topics include:
- For Elementary students: Feeling Good About Returning to School
- For Students:
- Developing Your Coping Skills;
- Feeling Good About Going Back
- For Teens:
- Changing Your Sleep Routine;
- Anxiety and Where To Go For Help
- For Parents & Caregivers:
- If You Need Help, We’re Here
- If You’ve Chosen Virtual School
- Where To Go For Help At The TDSB
- Getting Back Into Routine
- Tips For Parents of Children With Special Needs
- How To Recognize Anxiety In Your Child
- Anxiety How To Help Ourselves
- When To Seek Help
-How To Help Your Kids Manage Anxiety
- Additional webinars:
- How Caregivers Can Support Students Return to Learning
- Return to Learn for Caregivers of Complex Needs Students
PARENT INVOLVEMENT ADVISORY COMMITTEE: September 22
PIAC, the Board's Parent Involvement Advisory Committee, will meet for the first time in the 2020/2021 school year on Tuesday, September 22. On the agenda, among other things, is an update about the Operation of School Councils this year.
PIAC currently meets via Zoom, and everybody is welcome to attend and listen. To join the broadcast, click here on September 22 beginning at 7pm.
SEARCH FOR A PERMANENT DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION
Trustees at the TDSB are currently searching for a permanent Director of Education. As a member of the search committee, I am one of eleven trustees working with a search firm to bring the best candidate forward to our Board this fall.
Our Board is excited to involve the public in learning about the process. An "Information Webinar" was held on September 14, and delegations were heard from parents/caregivers & community members on September 16.
To learn more about the Director Search process, including the timeline and process, please check out our microsite here.
Lastly, a friendly but important reminder that all Ward 11 TDSB school yards are off limits for dogs at all times (including before shool, after school, and on weekends). Some liberties on school properties appear to have been taken during the school closures, and seem to be continuing. It goes without saying that it is rather unpleasant, not to mention unhygienic, for children and staff to track dog excrement home as well as into schools. And perhaps most importantly, we want our amazing caretakers to be able to focus their time and energy on Covid-19 cleaning!
I hope everyone has a great start to week 2 (if in school learning), and an amazing start to week 1 (if registered for virtual). This is, of course, completely new ground for us here at the TDSB and we thank everyone for all their support and conitnued patience as we break new barriers in education.
Finally, before I sign off, I want to wish all members of the Jewish community celebrating Rosh Hashanah a very happy start to the new year!
Rachel Chernos Lin
TDSB Trustee, Ward 11, Don Valley West