Ottawa

Trustees urge OCDSB to delay start of school year

Some Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) trustees are pleased the board is pushing back the deadline for parents to enrol their children in school, but say the start of the year should be pushed back, too.

Back-to-school plan poorly communicated, some board members say

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board announced it will be extending its Friday deadline to Sunday for parents to make a decision of whether they will be sending their kids back to school or opting for remote learning from home. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Some Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) trustees are pleased the board is pushing back the deadline for parents to enrol their children in school, but say the start of the year should be pushed back, too.

Wendy Hough, the OCDSB trustee for Bay, said the board must reconsider the start of the school year.

"We need to stop, step back for five minutes, think about what is so sacred about Sept. 3 that we need to make this happen," said Hough. "We do not have a gun to our head."

Parents were originally given until Friday to decide to enrol their children in online or in-class learning.

After a call on the school board to extend that deadline, the OCDSB extended it to Sunday, giving parents two extra days to decide.

The board released an outline on Monday detailing its back-to-school plan for students in September. 

A 'lack of communication'

Sandra Schwartz, the OCDSB trustee for Innes/Beacon Hill-Cyrville, said she's concerned not only as a trustee, but also as a parent whose child is going into Grade 8. 

"I'm concerned about the lack of communication that's going out to our families at a time when we're being asked to make decisions without complete information," said Schwartz.

Schwartz said trustees have been in talks with board staff, but she says the blame falls on the province for giving school boards such short notice around COVID-19 protocols and other matters.

"The real frustration many of us trustees are facing is largely directed at the province," Schwartz said.

Schwartz said parents may have to insist with the province to delay the start of school.

"At the end of the day if we're not ready to safely welcome students back in September and staff, I think we have to say maybe we have to delay the start until we feel ready," said Schwartz.

Hough said that school boards were rushed to make these decisions due to a delay from Ontario's Ministry of Education in providing instructions for the reopening of schools. 

"I don't understand why the school boards were left to make this decision so late. It's not fair game," said Hough. 

OCDSB Trustee Wendy Hough said the board has an obligation to provide education to more than 70,000 students in the public English board, but health and safety must come first. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Despite being a strong advocate for education all of her life, Hough said the health and safety of children and their families remains her top priority. 

"We can catch up on the curriculum," she said. "But we can't catch up on illness." 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sara Jabakhanji

Reporter-Editor

Sara Jabakhanji is a general assignment reporter with CBC News in Toronto. You can reach her at sara.jabakhanji@cbc.ca.

With files from Matthew Kupfer

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