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Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board approves staggered start to school year; $5.5M from reserves

Click to play video 'Peterborough area school boards prepare for the first day of school under COVID-19 protocols' Peterborough area school boards prepare for the first day of school under COVID-19 protocols
The public and Catholic boards are investing in cleaning and sanitizing resources and are thinking of staggering start dates for the first day of school – Aug 19, 2020

Peterborough and area public schools will have a staggered start to the school year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday night, the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board announced a staggered start to the first week of the school year. The board says it will allow different grades or students to return on different days so students and staff can become more comfortable with new routines and health and safety practices.

“This will be a school year unlike any other, and we want to have a successful start for everyone,” said board chairperson Diane Lloyd. “Providing a slower start to the year will help both students and staff become comfortable with these new practices.”

Read more: Ontario teachers say they’re preparing for online and in-class lessons with little guidance

More details will be provided to parents as schedules are finalized.

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The board also approved the use of an additional $5.5 million from reserves to support back-to-school planning efforts. The board says the funds will support several areas including:

  • hiring additional custodial staff
  • hiring additional teachers to lower some class sizes
  • potentially leasing space for classes should there be no space in specific schools
  • hiring staff to develop and offer the virtual, online Learn at Home program.

“These uncommon times call for measures that we would not normally consider,” Lloyd said. “At this time, the board believes strongly that rededicating these funds from reserves was an additional step we could put in place to support the safety and health of our students and staff.

“These reserves have been set aside with careful planning to support needs that we know are real because we’ve planned for them. At this time, however, the board believes that ensuring safe schools for our students and staff is the more pressing concern. We’re concerned, however, that use of our reserves in this way is not sustainable over time and we’ll be sharing these concerns with the province.”

Lloyd said as schools operate on a pandemic cleaning protocol, the focus will be on increased cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting.

“We need to have the people in place to support those efforts,” she said. “Additionally, the funds will support the hiring of approximately 40 teachers to reduce class sizes in schools where possible. More teaching staff will allow us to better use space created by students who choose to participate in the Learn At Home program by keeping some classes separate instead of combining them.”

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Read more: Ontario elementary students to return to class full-time, hybrid learning for most high schoolers

The funding could also potentially support leasing space for classes, she noted.

“The rental or leasing of community space is also something we are reviewing as part of our due diligence, but there are significant challenges to make that happen by the first of September,” Lloyd said.

“We can’t just flip a switch and turn an open community space into a classroom or set of classrooms.”

Logistical issues involved in turning a community space into a learning environment that ensures adequate supervision plans, outdoor spaces for gym and recess, and providing the items and technology needed for a classrooms, and busing and route planning.

Parents can continue to find extensive supplementary information on the board’s back to school planning on the school board’s website.

Families with elementary and secondary students may choose not to attend in-person school at this time, the board said. They will continue to receive instruction through the board’s established distance learning models, the board said.

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