Sudbury·Audio

Sudbury high school teachers concerned over board's plan for September, says local OSSTF president

While the president of District 3 of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) says the Rainbow District School Board's plan is well considered — it's not free of possible kinks.

'There's obviously going to be some concern with trying to keep students focused and motivated'

Students in Sudbury's Rainbow District School Board will have to adjust to self-screening forms, scheduled handwashing, Plexiglas where physical distancing isn't possible and students in Grades 4 and up will have to wear masks while indoors. (Gundam_Ai/Shutterstock)

While the president of District 3 of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) says the Rainbow District School Board's plan is well considered — it's not free of possible kinks.

On Tuesday, the board released its reopening plan for schools for the upcoming school year.

The board says — as directed by the Ministry of Education — it will reopen for in-class instruction at both elementary and secondary schools. The plan includes "enhanced health and safety protocols with input from public health."

Students will have to adjust to self-screening forms, scheduled handwashing, Plexiglas where physical distancing isn't possible and students in Grades 4 and up will have to wear masks while indoors.

"The Ministry of Education imposes some pretty unrealistic restrictions and that makes it very difficult for the boards to manage, what I would call a bullet-proof-plan," said Eric Laberge.

'The Ministry of Education imposes some pretty unrealistic restrictions and that makes it very difficult for the boards to manage, what I would call a bullet-proof-plan,' says Eric Laberge, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation District 3. (Submitted by Eric Laberge)

Cohort groups

Laberge, who serves Espanola, Manitoulin and Sudbury, said one of his biggest concerns with the limitations of the board's plan is the mandate for students to be separated into cohort groups, with the aim of limiting their contacts during the school day.

According to the plan, high school students will be limited to about 100 contacts, while elementary students will be limited to 50 contacts in their cohort group.

But Laberge said the plan for cohort groups, as it is, fails to consider the possible encounters between students in between class time in hallways or on their way to and from school. 

It's been a very challenging summer to say the least and I'm sure it's going to be even more so once September rolls around.— Eric Laberge, Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation

He noted that a large part of his summer months have been spent fielding calls and e-mails from concerned teachers about what lies in store for them this upcoming school year.

"I've been engaging the board on a lot of what they're planning and having weekly, if not daily conversations," he said. 

"It's been a very challenging summer to say the least and I'm sure it's going to be even more so once September rolls around." 

Maximizing 'those 150 minutes'

Laberge said so far, a number of teachers have raised concerns to him over the class schedules set out for secondary students. 

According to the board's reopening strategy, high school students will take four subjects each semester and will be taught on a rotating schedule, in which two subjects will be taught per week.

To accommodate this, school days will be divided into two 150-minute periods.

"There's obviously going to be some concern with trying to keep students focused and motivated and to basically maximize those 150 minutes, where you're only getting them every other week. 

"And then it's like when you're getting them back ... you know, two weeks later, it's almost like you have to do a mini review and go over the material you taught two weeks previous." 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sam Juric

Reporter

Sam Juric is a CBC reporter and producer, through which she's had the privilege of telling stories from P.E.I., Sudbury and Nunavut.

now