Families with students in the Toronto District School Board will have five days next week to register for either in-person classes or remote learning come September, the board's chair said Friday.
After finalizing its back-to-school plan at a meeting yesterday, the TDSB plans to ask to parents to make the choice between Aug. 25 and Aug. 29, according to Alexander Brown.
Responses the board receives during that period will be vital in assessing how elementary class sizes might be reduced in individual schools, Brown said in an interview with CBC Radio's Metro Morning.
"Once we have those numbers, we will be able to better determine, locally at each school, what the size of the class will be," said Brown, who is also the trustee for Willowdale.
"That information is going to be very important for us to get."
Results from a survey sent to families earlier this month suggested that about one in three elementary students will start the year remotely, though that figure decreased if the board could guarantee fewer students per class.
Remote learning will be hosted through a centralized "virtual school" staffed by teachers, principals and guidance counsellors, the board revealed this week.
Elementary class sizes have been among the most controversial aspects of the board's back-to-school strategy. Toronto Public Health recommends that students maintain two metres of physical distance whenever possible, something the board has conceded is likely not possible in most circumstances.
An initial plan that would have seen classes reduced in size across the system was rejected by the Ministry of Education because it required shorter school days for students.
The plan finalized on Tuesday will instead see elementary class sizes reduced in about 81 schools located in neighbourhoods deemed to be at higher risk for community transmission of the novel coronavirus.
Start of school year pushed back 1 week
Brown added that the board will try to limit the number of students in classes wherever else it may be possible. The city has provided the board with a list of libraries, community centres and parks where in-person instruction can be held.
The TDSB will not be required to seek permits for any classes in parks, he said.
"I think the teachers are going to take the opportunity to get the kids out of the classes, again for safety issues but also because we can do it outside. And if the weather is nice, we should be doing it," Brown told guest host Jill Dempsey.
The plan still needs ministry approval, but Brown said he is confident that it will be given a green light.
"I think we've gotten it to the place where they will be happy with it."
The start of the academic year has also been pushed back a full week, to September 15, and students will return to school in stages over the week, likely beginning with the earliest grades.
"We're in a time crunch right now. We don't feel confident we'll be able to open school on Sept. 8," Brown said of the original back-to-school date.
"We need to take that extra week and figure out all the details."