The Toronto District School Board is taking a more cautious approach toward reopening in the fall than province guidelines allow, putting firmer limits on student socializing and other gatherings like group singing.

At a special meeting Tuesday night, the TDSB unveiled its safety and health measures for a safe return to classrooms. The province’s guidelines for reopening schools allow for face-to-face meetings and for students to mingle outside of their cohorts during recess or outdoor breaks, but in various ways the Toronto board will follow stricter procedures than recommended. by the Ontario Ministry of Education.

Still, with about three weeks until the trimester starts in Toronto, protocols on health and physical education, extracurricular activities, community use of schools, lunch procedures for high school students, and use of musical instruments have yet to be definite.

Despite the lack of clarity, families had to indicate, through an online selection form, with a deadline of August 12, if their children will attend a face-to-face learning or opt for virtual education. Parents and guardians of 86% of elementary and middle school students indicated that their children would return to in-person learning.

TDSB elementary students will continue to take breaks only within cohorts; Plans for recess and outdoor breaks for high school students have yet to be released. Assemblies will remain virtual, unless held outdoors (weather permitting).

The ministry is allowing clubs, sports teams, bands, and other extracurricular activities to resume, as well as community use of schools.

In accordance with board protocols, students will be able to sing indoors with only masks and outdoors without masks, both physically distanced and within cohorts. The ministry guide states that if students cannot be distanced, singing is still allowed, and the use of masking is simply encouraged. Additionally, Ontario states that wind instruments are allowed indoors where two meters of separation can be maintained. (If you share instruments, they must be disinfected.)

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Board and ministry procedures around assigned seating, masking, and improved cleaning procedures on buses are aligned. However, the province’s guide claims that the buses can operate at full capacity, while the Toronto board will not run its buses 100 percent right away – special education students (excluding the gifted) will start using transportation. on board on September 9, and all other students on September 15.

In addition, the ministry’s instruction on ventilation and HEPA filter is to provide HEPA units in non-ventilated spaces occupied by students, including child care spaces and EarlyON rooms. The TDSB will go beyond the guidelines by ensuring that a HEPA filter is available in all occupied classrooms, portables, wellness rooms, child care spaces, and EarlyON rooms, regardless of the type of ventilation in the school.

TDSB elementary students will continue to eat in classrooms or other spaces where physical distance can be maintained. According to the ministry, lunch should be held outdoors when possible, use of the cafeteria is allowed with capacity limits, and high school students can eat off campus.

The board’s schools, families, and teachers are located in the greater Toronto area; a region that recorded some of the highest case counts in the province during the pandemic, and is experiencing increased counts against the highly infectious Delta variant.

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