Ontario schools to stay closed until the end of June
Planning for re-entry: The Ministry wants to hear from you
At the same time, the Minister outlined plans for expanded summer school opportunities and he committed to providing school boards with a detailed plan for the fall by the end of June. The Ministry is also working on developing a safe and organized way for school boards to allow families (and presumably teachers and principals) to retrieve items from their schools.
Planning for the fall at early stages
At the announcement, the province provided an outline of what is being considered for the summer and for the fall. The Ministry document, Ontario’s Framework for Continued Learning, outlines a number of possibilities, and the province is seeking feedback on what is being considered.
The considerations being explored for the fall include:
- adaptations to the rhythm of the school day and the physical aspects of classrooms to protect the health, safety, and well-being of students. There are no details yet as to what this might mean.
- supports for different learning structures if some schools have to stay closed in the fall, including combinations of in-person and online delivery. In the fall, this would probably look more structured than the current emergency distance learning, and it would include – potentially – times where teachers and students are learning online together in real time – what is referred to as “synchronous” learning.
- possible adjustments to the school calendar.
- funding for school boards (but there are no details yet) to support students whose special education or mental health needs may make the re-entry to school challenging.
- new health and safety protocols for cleaning, use of personal protective equipment, and for the participation of staff whose age or health profiles puts them at higher risk.
- possibilities for a more formalized process to help to make up for the “uneven learning experience that students may be bringing into their next school year.” This would replace or go beyond the typical “refresher” period that many teachers plan in the fall, with a goal of starting all students off on the right foot.
- consultations with experts at Sick Kids, Ontario Health and the Ontario Ministry of Health, to design and introduce changes and protocols related to infection prevention, screening, testing and adapted classroom environments. In particular this would support instances where – depending on public health circumstances – some schools may need to plan to open and close during the school year to keep students safe.
- adaptations in a number of areas in order to provide students with a wide range of learning experiences, including things like labs, gyms, tech, arts, and experiential learning. While the Ministry document acknowledges the importance of these broad learning experiences, it does not provide any plans for how they might be maintained while keeping students and teachers safe – only that it will take “creativity, planning and adaptation”.
- developing plans to make sure that “students can continue pursuing their academic passions as well as the fundamentals for a 21st century economy”. There are no details yet as to how this will happen in adapted environments in the fall.
- continued adaptations to teachers’ feedback and assessment of students as well as report cards.
- changes to school bus policies and practices, possibly including things like fewer students on buses, and different bus schedules.
- strategies to preserve physical education and other “structured group environments.”
- opportunities for professional development for staff who may be supporting students with mental health challenges. School boards will also be asked to provide students with more access to mental health supports when they return.
Expanding summer learning opportunities
The Ministry of Education is also making plans for changes to summer school in Ontario. Currently approximately 100,000 students participate in summer learning. The Ministry is hoping to double that number.
Among the changes the province has announced:
- Opportunities for grade 9 to 12 students to take full credit courses in 55 hours rather than the normal 110 hours. This would include “upgrading courses” to allow students to improve their marks in courses they’ve already taken.
- Opportunities for grade 8 students to “reach ahead” by taking high school courses.
- Ongoing learning supports including access to EAs for students with special education and mental health needs.
- A two-week program in skills development, learning and “routine establishment” for students with special needs.
- A summer extension of after-school programming for students with autism.
- Online opportunities for students to volunteer during the summer. Hours will count for students’ community service graduation requirement.
- If the provincial state of emergency is lifted, there may be some opportunities for in-class learning in the summer. These in-class experiences will look different in different parts of the province and could be used as pilots to understand more about effective methods for teaching and learning while maintaining student and staff safety.
The province wants to hear from education stakeholders
As plans for the fall are developed, the Ministry of Education is looking for “input, ideas or data” to inform their plans and policies.
There are many questions to consider:
- Should the province re-constitute the Ministry of Education Partnership Table to ensure all the evidence and multiple perspectives are taken into consideration?
- Education in 2020 is about more than the 3 R’s. How can we make sure that our schools don’t go back to normal, but instead go forward to give students have access to the broad education they need for long-term success?
- How could the Ministry of Education work with other ministries, as well as municipalities and school boards to provide greater support to families?
- Many have said that Ontario’s curriculum is too packed already. Is this an opportunity to revise the curriculum with a view to make it relevant for 2020?
- Some school systems promote learning outdoors. Could we make changes in our schools to support more learning outside?
The feedback must be in the form of a PDF or Word document and should be sent to [email protected]. Be sure to include your name and the name of your organization. Use “Ontario’s Plan to Reopen Schools” in the subject line.