With a part of the staff already in place for the reopening of elementary schools on May 11 outside of the greater Montreal area and on May 19 within it, Rob Buttars, Director General of the New Frontiers School Board, is confident that the return of children will be done smoothly.
The anglophone school board is expecting 25% of the children to head back to class, which represents 241 of the 1,000 children schools are normally welcoming, a survey sent to parents revealed. It’s lower than the 50% proportion expected at the Vallée-des-Tisserands School Board.
“We found out that 517 won’t be coming back, and 16,8 didn’t answer” indicated Buttars.
He then mentioned that in one of the New Frontier Board’s smaller school, only 24 students are coming back, so not all the teachers will be returning to work.
“Public health said to respect a 15 to 1 ratio, but we’re quite sure we will go much smaller. I’m thinking along the lines of 10 to 1. Also, some of our schools have large classrooms, so we’ll adjust accordingly”, Buttars indicated.
He specified that school principals are going to take care of forming groups.
“It’s a question of seeing who’s available, because teachers over 60 years old might not come back. I know that in some cases, children might get their teacher from last year or the one they are supposed to have for next year”, he detailed.
Some teachers with medical conditions also expressed their need to stay home and the school board will allow them to do so.
Mr. Buttars admitted that teachers were nervous at first, but that they are “much more positive now”. He explained that it was hard for them to feel comfortable because there was conflicting information. That’s why the school board decided to decentralize the organization, so schools are allowed some flexibility in their planning.
“There’s definitely a mobilization for school teams to plan to receive students though all the staff doesn’t have to be there. Some members of the team are working at a distance, and some are supporting other departments” specified Mr. Buttars.
He also added that a balance between physical presence and work from home was put in place.
“For example, all the staff meetings are done by video conference. Our teachers are also being trained to teach online right now and they will reach out to students who are not attending schools”, he said.
The scheduling of school days is still being defined. The school board is planning to separate recess and lunch times to minimize contact between students.
“It’s interesting because the law has changed to hold two recesses a day. We will be able to get the children outside”, Buttars affirmed.
Students are not going to pick up where they left off in their curriculum and won’t be evaluated even if they will be using what was in the curriculum this year.
“I think and I certainly hope that the teachers are going to use this whole pandemic experience as a big learning piece for the students. The focus will be on socialization”, Buttars added.
There’s been a statement made by Quebec School Boards Association that the English schools shouldn’t reopen until the situation of COVID-19 has stabilized.
“A resolution still need to be adopted, but my understanding of what they want is to follow Public Health’s guidelines and to organise a safe return”, Buttars said.
However, Prime Minister François Legault reinstated in his daily press conferences that the English school boards would have to follow what the government decides, and New Frontiers School Board is getting ready for it.
Opening May 11
Opening May 19
-Centennial Park School
-Mary Gardner School
-St. Willibrord Elementary