OCDSB parents given 2 weeks to decide about fall school return
Board expects most parents will choose in-class learning rather than virtual
The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) has given its parents a two-week deadline to decide whether their children will attend school virtually or in-person this fall.
The board says parents will receive a form on Monday and are required to return it by March 14 with their decision on what they plan to do come September, more than five months away.
According to OCDSB, if parents don't return the form, they'll assume the students will be attending in-person.
"This is an important decision, and we encourage you to discuss this matter with your child," a letter sent to parents Saturday morning reads.
"Remember, this decision will be for the entire school year. It will be difficult to transition students later unless it is a critical situation."
'Mechanisms in place' to consider changes
At a board meeting live streamed last week, Brett Reynolds, associate director of education, said they're expecting the vast majority of parents to opt for in-person learning.
He said the decision needs to be made now so that staffing and scheduling decisions can happen in accordance with collective agreements.
While the deadline is tight, if circumstances change and parents need to change streams, they'll have options, Reynolds said.
"For those people who make the decision and then really, really, really find themselves in a situation where they need support moving back to in-person, we always have mechanisms in place to consider those [requests]," he said.
Union says early deadline important
Giving parents only two weeks to make a decision that won't become reality until the fall has a "significant impact," said Malaka Hendela, co-chair of the Ottawa-Carleton Assembly of School Councils.
"The reality is, none of us know what September is going to look like," said Hendela, who also has a child attending one of the board's schools.
"So this could be all for naught. This could be a huge amount of [planning] and then at the last minute — like [what] happened last September — we're delayed, we have to pivot, we have to change everything again."
But according to David Wildman, president of the Ottawa-Carleton Elementary Occasional Teachers Association, having a tight deadline is extremely important for planning purposes.
"It's very, very important to the teachers — whether they're occasional teachers or regular teachers — that the staffing process, which is very complex, is allowed enough time to happen," Wildman told CBC.
"So that if they're changing their assignments, they have adequate time to prepare."
Safety protocols in place
In the letter, the OCDSB said schools can be safely operated with proper protocols in place, and that they're open to resuming regular operations incrementally over the course of the next school year.
Elementary school children who return to in-person learning in September will remain cohorted by class, with staff rotating from classroom to classroom, the board said.
Programs like Google Classroom will remain in place in case they need to switch to remote learning or if an individual student has to be isolated, the OCDSB said.
For secondary students attending class in-person, the school year will be divided into quadmesters, except for the International Baccalaureate Program schools, which follow octomesters.