The Ontario Ministry of Education has set the guidelines for the coming school year. However, the School Boards have the important task of implementing the rules, ensuring that they are followed, and responding to the wishes of parents and guardians when they choose to send their children to the classrooms or online learning. Despite all the financial support that has been made available, this year will bring new challenges in school management.
The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) is one of the most relevant boards in Ontario, and that is why Milénio Stadium spoke with Norbert Costa, Centrally Assigned Principal at TDSB. In this conversation, it is clear the determination and will to turn difficulties into victories in a particularly difficult school year, still under the shadow of a pandemic.
Milénio Stadium: Before we talk about the future, how do you think the past school year went?
Norbert Costa: Over the past year, as a society we have faced many challenges. As an educational system we have also faced challenges, but also embraced many opportunities to serve students in different ways. Our staff and students had many meaningful learning throughout the year in a virtual environment. There were many successes during a unique year in education. We now look forward to a great year ahead.
MS: How did the Toronto District School District prepare for the return to the classroom?
NC: Toronto District School Board (TDSB) staff have been working throughout the summer plan for return to school in September. We are following the guidance from the Ministry of Education and Toronto Public Health to develop and implement the return to school protocols. Parents were given the opportunity to choose in person or virtual learning, in August. There will be another opportunity to make a change in February 2022. We look forward to a great start on September 9th. Throughout the year, the TDSB will continue to review all health and safety protocols and adjusted as appropriate in consultation with Toronto Public Health.
MS: What rules are being implemented to ensure the health of students, teachers and staff?
NC: The full protocols and rules are currently being finalized and will be ready for the return to school on September 9th. However, some of the key things that we have already determined at this time is that all students in JK-grade 12 will be using masks and we will continue with COVID screening. Recess for elementary students will continue. All schools will also continue with directional signs, cleaning measures and HEPA filters in classrooms to support staff and student well-being.
We will continue to have assemblies in a virtual format. Where space permits and outdoor gathering protocols are met, we may also have meetings outdoors. We are preparing for in person instruction but also providing dedicated virtual classes for students as needed. Information will be regularly updated on our website at www.tdsb.on.ca
MS: Do you have any idea of the vaccination percentage among teachers and staff?
NC: There is no indication of the vaccination percentage.
MS: In your opinion, should vaccination against Covid-19 be mandatory among teachers and staff?
NC: The TDSB will continue to work with Toronto Public Health and the Ministry of Education on guidelines and direction on vaccinations.
MS: What is your state of mind regarding the next school year? Confident or with high anxiety levels?
NC: Personally, I am very optimistic about the return to learning in September. The TDSB is doing its best to put a plan in place to ensure the safety of students and staff and will continue to work with Toronto Public Health to address any emerging needs.
TDSB to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for staff, visitors
Trustees voted unanimously Wednesday in favour of developing a plan for mandatory vaccines.
The Toronto District School Board’s trustees have unanimously approved a proposal that would require school staff and visitors to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Trustees voted in favour of developing a plan during a board meeting on Wednesday night, according to a news release. The goal of such a plan would be to ensure that staff, trustees, and anyone visiting TDSB schools provide proof of vaccination, the release said. Those who are not vaccinated would be “required to attend mandatory education on the benefits of vaccination.”
The plan will include dates by which point unvaccinated individuals are required to have received their first dose and second dose of the vaccine. It is also expected to include protocols for routine COVID-19 testing.
Trustees want to see a plan in place by Sept. 9, when students are expected to return to the classroom. If that isn’t possible, they would like to see it “as soon as possible thereafter.”
TDSB trustees have also decided to ask the city’s chief medical officer of health, the province’s chief medical officer of health and Minister of Education Stephen Lecce to add a COVID-19 vaccine to the list of vaccinations students are already required to have before attending school. “The data is clear — being fully vaccinated significantly reduces the risks of the most serious outcomes of COVID-19,” said TDSB chair Alexander Brown in a statement. “This is an important step to ensure we are making our schools and workplaces as safe as possible for staff and students — particularly younger students who are not eligible to receive the vaccine.”