Parents of students in the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board must decide whether their children will attend school or opt for online learning for the 2021-22 school year by March 14.
The board issued a form to parents Monday which is due back at 11:59 p.m. Sun., March 14. If the parents do not return the form, it will be assumed that they will be returning to school in person.
In an announcement Monday, the board stated they “believe that student learning and well-being is best supported through in-person learning.” They added that in-person learning supports mental health, the capacity to support engagement for children, and it better meets the needs of vulnerable students and those learning the English language.
“We know from experience that with appropriate protocols in place, schools can safely operate with limited evidence of transmission of COVID-19,” the board states. “We plan to continue safety precautions in schools and expect that as vaccine distribution continues, the risk of spread is reduced. Over the course of the 2021-2022 school year, we hope to resume regular operations incrementally and as it is safe to do so, continuing to work closely and be guided by the advice from Ottawa Public Health.”
OCDSB associate director of learning Brett Reynolds said in the board’s meeting in late February that the expectation is that the vast majority of parents will be sending their children to school for in-person learning.
K – 8 in-person learning will be modelled on what is currently being offered. Students will continue to be cohorted by class, and staff will rotate from class to class as the schedule demands. There will be a continued focus on reducing the number of educator contacts who are delivering instruction to each homeroom/cohort. The use of learning management systems (such as Google Classroom) will remain in place for each class in order to support a transition to remote learning should the need arise, or where individual students are required to isolate.
In-person secondary school learning will begin with the current safety measures in place.
In September, the school year will be organized into quadmesters except for the International Baccalaureate Program schools which follow octomesters.
At this time, the board expects that students will continue to be grouped into cohorts, A and B with only one cohort attending each day. The OCDSB says once provincial and health advice supports the removal of cohorting, daily attendance, and/or a return to the regular semester format, they will look to implement those changes as quickly as possible.
Ottawa-Carleton Virtual School (OCV)
The OCDSB will offer virtual elementary and secondary OCV schools for students who wish to learn in this model. With more students returning to in-person classes, we may have fewer elementary OCV campuses and will continue to have one OCV secondary campus.
Elementary OCV will offer the 50/50 Kindergarten program, the English Program and the Early French Immersion Program. Middle French Immersion and the Alternative Program will not be available in OCV. Students in OCV will receive 180 to 225 minutes of synchronous instruction per day. The OCV elementary school day will start at 9:00 a.m. and end at 3:30 p.m. There will be 90 minutes of scheduled nutrition breaks and recesses supervised by families.
OCV Secondary will offer a full selection of courses in each grade level and in all three program pathways: locally developed/workplace, applied, college preparation, university preparation. However, OCV will not include access to system programs, such as Secondary High Skills Majors (SHSM), Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), Arts Canterbury, which will only be available through in-person schools. The current plan is for OCV to be organized in quadmesters in the fall.
The OCDSB said in-person learning is the best format to support students with special education needs, particularly those in specialized program classes. For this reason, in the 2021-2022 school year specialized program classes will return to in-person delivery only. Students with special education needs in regular classes will continue to be supported with the necessary accommodations/modifications provided in their Individual Education Plan (IEP) in-person or in OCV.
While the board needs early information for planning purposes, the tight window to decide on what to do for September will be difficult for some families.
“The reality is, none of us know what September is going to look like,” said Ottawa-Carleton Assembly of School Councils Co-Chair Malaka Hendela in an interview with CBC. “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.”