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Not many tears will be shed when local school boards abandon the current modified semester system in favor of a return to the traditional high school schedule of four courses per day.

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A joint announcement by the health and education ministries Thursday that the province’s secondary schools will return to four courses a day in February was hailed as “good news.”

The Ontario Public School Boards Association released a letter supporting the measure that same day, saying it will “improve student participation and achievement.”

Educators, students, and parents were growing weary of the COVID-19-induced system where students strive for two classes per day of 150 minutes each. They also alternate two courses per week.

“Our members are very happy with the possibility of returning. It’s a huge sigh of relief as the current model is difficult for teachers and students to manage, ”said Erin Roy, Greater Essex District President of the Ontario Federation of High School Teachers.

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“The duration of the classes is difficult to retain and learn the content,” he said. “Even in college, it’s rare to have such long classes.”

By changing courses every two weeks, Roy notes that Mondays are dedicated to “getting students back on track where they left off 12 days earlier.”

The government also announced improved testing protocols that include providing five rapid antigen tests for all students and staff at publicly funded schools to use over the Christmas holidays. The improved testing and orientation will allow for a return to regular schedules and “doing so will provide a more normal in-person learning experience for students and promote positive mental health,” the announcement said.

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All school boards must have the approval of their local health unit to make the semester change.

“The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit meets regularly with the Windsor and Essex county school boards in the region to discuss public health guidelines and recommendations,” said a statement from the local health unit. “Local public health data is used to inform local decisions and recommendations. WECHU will continue to work with our school boards to discuss our guidance in relation to these recent announcements and we will share it publicly after we have had time to discuss and review our data and recommendations with our school board partners. “

Erin Kelly, education director for the Greater Essex County School Board, said they are awaiting instructions from the health unit “but we are prepared to transition if and when they determine that it is acceptable. “

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Emelda Byrne, director of education for the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board, called the news “encouraging” but was aware of the high number of local cases.

“As of today, our local full-dose vaccination rates for people between the ages of 12 and 17 are only 72.2 percent. Our local health medical officer has indicated that our vaccination rates for that demographic and our overall case count will need to improve to return to a normal schedule in February, ”Byrne said.

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Roy implored “the community to do their part by getting vaccinated and following recommendations to curb the spread so high school students can return to traditional semesters as soon as possible.”

In preparation for the second half of the school year, the government is handing over the remainder of the $ 1.6 billion in COVID-19 resources to school boards for health and safety measures. Additionally, school boards will be able to access up to two percent of their reserve funds for security measures.

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Reference-windsorstar.com

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