Toronto’s public-school students will follow stricter health and safety measures than those released by the province when they return to school in about three weeks.
Toronto District School Board (TDSB) staff shared reopening guidelines with trustees at a meeting on Tuesday, outlining requirements for elementary students to eat lunch in their classrooms and remain in specific cohorts for recess and outdoor breaks. Assemblies will not be allowed, unless they are virtual or outdoors. Singing in indoor music class will be permitted as long as students are masked and in their own classroom cohorts.
However, the TDSB said it was still developing protocols on resuming extracurricular activities and the use of instruments for music class. It also indicated that the guidelines could change into the school year based on continuing advice from Toronto Public Health.
The provincial government’s guidance to school boards earlier this month allowed for school assemblies, the use of cafeterias with physical distancing between cohorts and the mixing of cohorts during recess or outdoor breaks, with physical distancing encouraged. Singing was also allowed under the provincial guidance, with masks encouraged where distancing cannot be maintained.
“With the first day of school quickly approaching, we continue to confirm more details about what school will look like in September,” TDSB spokesman Ryan Bird said. “While there will be familiar aspects to daily life in the classroom, there will also be some changes, and we’ll keep our families and staff updated as these final pieces are decided in the days and weeks ahead.”
Caitlin Clark, a spokeswoman for Education Minister Stephen Lecce, said the government follows the advice of the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, and the “layers of prevention” that include screening protocols, testing, ventilation improvements and distancing “will keep schools as safe as possible.”
Students, parents and teachers are preparing for what they expect to be another disruptive fall. Canada’s COVID-19 vaccination rate is among the highest in the world, but the vaccine is not yet approved for children under 12. Families and school staff are also anxious about the fast-spreading Delta variant.
The TDSB said on Tuesday that preliminary data show 86 per cent of students opted for in-person learning – a larger number than in the previous school year. Last year, about 30 per cent of students chose to learn remotely.
The school board has said that all students, including those in kindergarten, will be required to wear masks indoors.
The TDSB guidance indicated that high-school lunch protocols are still being developed, as are rules for health and physical education classes and the use of musical instruments. The province had said that wind instruments are permitted indoors where a distance of two metres or more can be maintained between students.
The school board also said it had not finalized how extracurricular activities would run, despite the province saying that clubs and sports could resume.
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