Toronto

TDSB approves plan to reduce class sizes in Toronto neighbourhoods hardest-hit by COVID-19

The Toronto District School Board has approved a plan to reduce kindergarten and elementary class sizes, primarily at schools in communities with a heightened risk of COVID-19.

Trustees approved a motion to require all students, staff wear masks or face coverings

The plan finalized by the TDSB this week will see resources used to reduce elementary class sizes in neighbourhoods hit hardest by COVID-19. (David Donnelly/CBC)

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) has approved a plan to reduce kindergarten and elementary class sizes, primarily at schools in communities with a heightened risk of COVID-19.

Toronto Public Health has identified some communities as being at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19. Schools in these communities will have junior and senior kindergarten classes capped at 15 students, while Grade 1 to 8 classes will be capped at 20.

In all other schools, all kindergarten classes will be capped at 26, Grade 1 to 3 classes will be capped at 20, while Grade 4 to 8 classes will be capped at 27.

The TDSB is relying on Toronto Public Health to determine the schools in need of increased resources. A full list of schools where caps will be lowered has not yet been finalized.

Meanwhile, trustees approved more than $30 million in funding to enable staff to develop a plan that will see the hiring of an additional 366 teachers and the redeployment of 400 central teachers to lower class sizes across the board to help improve student and staff safety.

With regard to virtual school, or remote learning, students will be taking part in live online learning throughout the day and see class size caps of 29 in junior and senior kindergarten, 20 in Grades 1 to 3 and 35 in Grades 4 to 8.

As it relates to space requirements, if every student returned, 34 schools would be short of space, while just four schools would be short of space if 80 per cent of students returned.

TDSB says it will continue to work with the City of Toronto and others to look for alternate space.

You can see the TDSB's proposed class size caps and forecasted class size averages in the chart below:

(Toronto District School Board)

Even with lowered caps and additional teachers, the TDSB says its "limited resources" mean it will still not be possible to ensure two metres of physical distance between kindergarten and elementary students.

Survey results released by the board this week suggest that about one in three elementary students will start the year remotely.

Start of school year likely delayed by a week

TDSB trustees also approved a back-to-school plan that will likely delay the start of the school year by a week to Tuesday Sept. 15, with a staggered start.

Meanwhile, trustees approved a motion to require that all students and staff wear masks or face coverings.

"We felt it was best to be in line with the overall City of Toronto requirements which require anyone over the age of two to wear a mask or face covering in indoor public spaces — with exemptions for medical reasons," the board said.

"Particularly for younger students, we'll ensure there are breaks outdoors so that they're not wearing them for multiple hours straight."

The latest back-to-school plan by the TDSB comes just days after the provincial government rejected a proposal to reduce class sizes more broadly across the board. The rejected plan called for class size caps of 15 students from junior kindergarten to Grade 3 and 20 students in Grades 4 to 8.

The Ford government raised concerns that the board's initial plan also included a shortened learning day and its potential effects on the curriculum and after-school programs.

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