Back to School in Centre Wellington (Ep 18)

What does back to school look like in Centre Wellington during COVID? What are the new procedures and steps our school boards and schools are taking?

With huge thanks to Barbara Evoy and Cogeco, we share this interview with Upper Grand District School Board Superintendents Gary Slater and Carlo Zen.

They discuss essential information and questions facing all elementary and secondary school students and parents in our district. Topics including: What a new day of learning looks like for students? What plans are in place to keep students and teachers safe? What is classified as an “outbreak” and what response plans are in place? Plus discussions about where parents can find the best answers to their questions and where is the school board getting its guidance.

This is an important episode, and we send our huge thanks to our friends at Cogeco and Barbara Lustgarten-Evoy for sharing this important interview for us all. Make sure to subscribe to Cogeco on YouTube to keep up-to-date with local programming on the go, and Barbara Evoy is the owner of Fergus Educational Services which offers virtual tutoring services, here's how you can reach Barb 519.787.8528

Here are a few of the topics and questions covered in this interview:

  • What will a first day look like for new students and parents?

  • What plans and support will be in place to keep students and schools safe?

  • Will students be required to wear masks?

  • Will there be floor markings and direction markings to assist social distancing in each building?

  • The new role of school greeters

  • What does “only essential visitors” mean and are parents allowed at Upper Grand District School Board schools?

  • How to be helpful before arriving at school and what parents can do now to encourage your children about the new realities.

  • What is classified as an “outbreak” and what is the response plan for schools and the school board? Where is the school board's guidance coming from?

  • Why are we starting with staggered students and what does it mean?

  • Lockers access is gone, for now, what about large spaces and physical education facilities, music, etc?

  • Where parents can see pictures of the student's classrooms and physical changes to each building?

  • Big picture, what are the biggest differences for students?

  • Will the entire curriculum be taught or will classes be limited to only core learning?

Watch host Barbara Lustgarten Evoy's show Parenting with Barbara on Cogeco TV's YourTV or watch online here! Make sure to subscribe to your community Cogeco station on YouTube.

Grab some coffee and let’s listen in with Barb Evoy and CogecoTV’s interview with UGDSB Superintendents

Listen Here to Episode 19: Back to School in Centre Wellington

Important Links, Helpful Resources and Episode Mentions:

Did you listen to this episode 15 with Barbara Lustgarten Evoy? Listen Here

Audio Transcription Centre Wellington Back to School Episode with Barbara Lustgarten Evoy and Upper Grand District School Board Super Intendants

Barbara Evoy: Hi there and welcome to Parenting with Barbara I'm Barb Evoy, I'm the host of the show today, and I am very excited to have the guests here that we have. But before I say another word, it's really important to us that you recognize that we take everybody's safety very seriously during the COVID-19 pandemic. And we have absolutely measured out the distance between myself and my guests and between the guests themselves. So we are at least six feet apart from one another. I wanted to have these gentlemen in today because I know a lot of you have a lot of questions and a lot of concerns, and we have taken today's interview and built it based on the most popular or most commonly heard questions that you and your friends and family have sent in. So before we go forward for further information, you are welcome to go to UGI backslash fall 2020. Alternatively though, we're asking you to go to the website of this specific school where your child or schools, where your children attend to find out the details for your school opening our first of two guests, our superintendent Gary Slater. Our second is superintendent Carlo Zen, and I'm going to allow them both to introduce themselves to us now. So let's just get started. There's a lot to cover. So superintendent Slater tell us a little bit about yourself.

Gary Slater: Thanks. Barb uh, I, uh, have been a superintendent with the Upper Grand District School Board for the last seven years going into my eighth year and have responsibilities for elementary schools in Guelph as well as some of the other programs in the Board the new teacher induction program, uh, School effectiveness, which is looking at schools and student achievement, as well as risk management, insurance, and healthy schools.

Barbara Evoy: Great. And can you just answer a quick question? I should have mentioned before we started, what is the journey to superintendent hood?

Gary Slater: Okay, well, uh, ultimately, uh, academic superintendents and school Board start off as teachers move through being a vice principal principal, and then from there become Superman.

Barbara Evoy: This is a long journey. It's not like we take someone off the street and put them in this role. So I just want our viewers to recognize that our, our guests here today are well-informed and superintendent Zen. Thank you so much for joining us a little bit about you.

Gary Slater: Thanks. Barb thanks for having us. Uh, I've been a superintendent just a little bit longer than Gary, uh, about eight years and I'm on the secondary side and I have responsibilities for the three Dufferin high schools, and I also have responsibility for secondary program. So that's all instruction, uh, grade nine to 12, as well as student success, the student success portfolio. So that would include our experiential learning programs like co-op and Chisholm and OEF and dual credits. Um, and I also do things around staffing, uh, in our secondary schools and, uh, recently, uh, pretty much all things related to COVID in secondary.

Barbara Evoy: All right, guys, I can't thank you both enough. So rather than sit here and do a whole lot of Fanny, I'm going to just keep moving forward. So, as I was mentioning earlier to our viewers, um, we've received a lot of questions and we've based today's interview on the most popular questions. Those that we receive most often, um, we have, I've kind of broken up the interview into two pieces using secondary and elementary as our guide. You'll notice the flow as we get going. If you have further questions and you're still looking for further information, you certainly can go to UGA backslash fall 2020, ideally go to the website of the school that your child attends, and you'll find a whole lot of information that is distinct to your School. Alright, with your permission, we're going to get started, then let's start with logistics around safety. Uh, there's a lot of guidelines that have been implemented for all the buildings, uh, in the Upper Grand District School Board. I think it's fair to say that collectively we recognize that the health and wellbeing of our staff, our students and their families are all a number one priority for us. So safety is a really big issue. So maybe let's talk about that. A superintendent Slater first big question to you, what plans and supports will be in place to make school safe during the reopening and thereafter?

Gary Slater: Well, uh, Barb, there's been a lot of things been put in place. And the nice thing that I think is that a lot of them people will be used to already things like, uh, using hand sanitizers, physical distancing, the same rules around that two meters. So, uh, at a School you'll see kids lining up to come in in the morning, there'll be two meters apart. And so some of those things will be already very familiar to parents and to students. Uh, we will, our board has, uh, instituted that all students will be wearing masks from JK to grade 12.

Barbara Evoy: Actually, if I might interrupt, we just heard from dr. Mercer of public health for Dufferin Wellington Guelph correct. And I believe that there was a strong appreciation and support for that motion to, to

Gary Slater: Absolutely as, as your viewers would know, uh, Wellington Dufferin Guelph public health has been a strong advocate for masks, right from the beginning in public. So, uh, it was a natural extension to come into the School.

Barbara Evoy: It's very exciting because our mayor and warden Kelly Linton and I were talking recently, and he was very proud to say that, uh, Wellington County was one of the very first, uh, in the province anyway, to Institute public use of masks. So kudos to our own community and to the school board for following me.

Gary Slater: In addition, there's lots of other things that will be happening inside the buildings. We are certainly doing our best to restrict student moving movement in the building. So if, if parents think about, uh, with their normal students, uh, time in school, they would think maybe about their child being on rotary and in grade seven and eight, going to various classrooms. So instead of having the, uh, the students move between classes, we're having the teachers move. So the students stay put, so that crossing in the halls that would be very frequent in the past is greatly reduced. There's lots of signage in the halls or reminders, uh, and, and stickers on the floor about physical distancing. We have markings in the halls to divide one side from the other to keep the lines when they do go down the hall, very clear and passing each other with as much distance as possible.

Barbara Evoy: I believe we're hoping to use some volunteers to help guide the children upon entry in the lower panel as well. Is that correct?

Gary Slater: That's right. We actually are calling them greeters and we're actually paying them. So they're not even volunteering. So even better love giving people work. Yeah. So, uh, to start the day off, they will meet the students outside. They will help them line up, help them with that physical distancing and, uh, possibly help with masks if needed and help with hand sanitizer as the kids are coming into school. So, yeah, so

Barbara Evoy: Really doing, I mean, I think it's not just, we I'd like to say that that it's all of us, but I think across the province, I know for certain that the work is being done to keep our people safe and that's really important. What does mealtime look like? I know we're getting a lot of questions around mealtime. Um, either one of you want to address both elementary and high school mealtime.

Gary Slater: Sure. I can start around the elementary part since I'm already going. Um, our elementary students will be eating in their classrooms in some schools that would have been what was already happening. And in some schools, there may be a lunch room or other places where we would have had students congregate. So that won't happen. Now, everyone will be in their own classrooms. Uh, we talked about masks. They obviously won't wear their mask while they're eating. And, uh, so they will be in their debt at their desk in their own space, uh, having their meals excellent. And for secondary, yeah,

Carlo Zen: Secondary, the way our model works is the students aren't there over the, over the noon hour. So there's actually no, no lunch hour. And that was a big consideration for us because a part of the issue for secondary to would be a students leaving at lunch and congregating in the community and then coming back into the school. So we are a model addresses that, which was right. And, um, and similar in terms of entry and exit into the building with, with our, with our students, they would, you know, they would, and they would kind of come into the school, go right to their class when they're part of the day's over, then they would just leave. Okay.

Barbara Evoy: Can you, uh, as a followup to that superintendent Zen, can you speak to what essential visitors means? Because I believe that on our website, we have confirmed that only essential visitors will be permitted into any of our buildings, uh, during, at least during the foreseeable future. Can you explain what that mean?

Carlo Zen: Sure. So essential visitors to our, to our schools would be staff that aren't necessarily based at that school. So normally in the School, you've

Gary Slater: Got your admin and your teachers and your custodians and your office staff and your support staff. Uh, but we also have other staff that sometimes come into the building. We have maintenance staff, for example, that come in and do repairs. And those would be the people we would classify as essential visitors, so that, so people that need to be there for a specific purpose parents land on the list. So unfortunately at this time, parents are not allowed to come in, unless of course there was an emergency with their, uh, with their child, in which case the school would make arrangements with the parish.

Barbara Evoy: Great. That answers so much you guys. Alright. Uh, we're going to keep going. I'm going to start with, um, this, uh, it's, it's not really a start, it's an extension, but it's definitely something that many of us have been discussing. We are well aware of the role of parents and families, that primary caregivers, when the children leave their primary residence, what does that look like? And what role can we ask of given the name of the show is Parenting with Barbara, what role can we ask of our parents specifically our younger ones, but absolutely all of them. What might we be looking for them to do? What is their role in this?

Gary Slater: Well, one thing that would be really helpful before school starts would be talking to kids and reassuring them that the school and the teachers and the staff are all doing everything they can to be helpful and make sure we're safe. And there's always that balance between wanting to know how important something is, but not trying to have it become a fearful thing. So we really want parents to encourage kids to come to school, uh, knowing what the expectations are. You're going to have to wear a mask at school, but also reassuring them that things are in place to make sure that they're safe along those lines. It would be great if parents could help kids to slowly learn to wear the mask longer and longer during the day. So start off with shorter periods of time, take a break and start to increase the amount of time that students wear masks, because it will be tricky if someone is starting off and hasn't done that very much and have a whole day of school.

Barbara Evoy: I think the good news is to some of the many comments we've all been hearing. Uh, we recognize that it's not going to be easy for all. Uh, some people are going to struggle more than others, but I think it's really important to note that it's not completely new. We have been asking everybody to our mass, when they go in the grocery store, the doctor's office, the hospital, wherever they have been able to go. We've there's been a general overall request mandate order in, in Wellington County to wear masks. So I think that this extension shouldn't be as hard as, as, as it could be. And I hope that parents are doing the work right now. I agree with you. I think I would like to add that if I could think of three words that I would personally ask our parents to make sure they incorporate it every move it's kindness and respect and truth.

And I think that those three things are really important when we're talking to our children. These are not people making up choices in the schools. We're not making up choices to do to your children. In fact, we're doing it for your children. And I think that that's really important that we continue to spread that message that this is being done to keep everybody well. I look at those smiles, okay, we're going to keep going. Um, I'm going to stick with you superintendent Slater in the event of an outbreak, which we know at a recent meeting where dr. Tanenbaum of, um, of public health was speaking, he suggested that an outbreak qualifies with two confirmed cases, uh, in, uh, we're not going to go into details about whether or not it's in the cohort or in the school or in the community or County to confirm cases, consider an outbreak. What happens if that happens? What can our families expect? When will they get to hear what, when will they know next steps?

Gary Slater: Sure. And, and the one thing that, uh, is really clear is that public health will know before we do, they do the testing. So a confirmed case. So a suspected case, the person goes at whether it be a staff or a student, uh, has the testing, then public health will get the results. So they will be telling us about that. They will not wait until there's two in that outbreak situation, as soon as there's one case. And then, uh, the school board as well prepared to provide them the information they need. And something that we've all heard about for the last several months is contact tracing. So then they will start that process and we'll provide attendance records, any, uh, contacts that that student or that class has been in touch with in the building and the additional people that have come into the building. So we will have records of all of that. We'll provide all of that information to public health, and then they do that contact tracing, and then they determine next steps and they will walk us forward from there. So it won't be the school board coming up with a next step plan. If there's a confirmed case, it's definitely under the guidance of public.

Barbara Evoy: Thank you so much for clarifying that because it's important that our viewers understand that, although I was speaking to what a proper outbreak requires, any outbreak, any case is enough for the school board to take steps and actions along with an under the guidance of public health. So thanks for the clarification really important. Okay. Um, why are we starting with staggered students and what will to you superintendent Zen and what will teachers and students be doing during this staggered entry period? So

Gary Slater: For sure. So, so one of the, one of the big things for us as, um, given both of our models, there ha there was quite a bit of hiring that had to be done in both panels. And there also have to be staff reorganizations because of our, uh, our remotes.

Barbara Evoy: We hired a lot of people, right?

Gary Slater: We did. Yeah, yeah. We hired about 150, 160

Carlo Zen: Teachers. So we're in the process of doing that across both panels. So obviously it takes a lot of time to get those people in place and to do the restructuring and, uh, in elementary and the re timetabling and secondary. So that gives us a little bit of time to do some reorganization. And then I think it allows us to bring students in and in smaller and smaller cohorts and smaller groups so that they can get used to their new, their new routines. They haven't been in school since March. And so this is going to be the first time, other than maybe some, some locker clean outs in the spring, most students haven't stepped foot in their school. So it gives them a chance to go in, in smaller numbers and, and, you know, establish a level of comfort and for staff as well. Um, and so I think it just allows for that gradual entry. I think that's really important that, uh, you know, obviously people are anxious about starting. And I think that staggered entry will, will allow us to get those routines down. Some of our classes, our students in our specialized class placements, they will start the first day and they will continue full time from the very first day. And again, those are special circumstances and those classes have their unique, own unique needs and routines. And so it gives them lots of time without whatever

Barbara Evoy: Clarify for our viewer with, uh, with respect and apologies. Sure. Not everybody understands what that means. So that group would be groups of our students who have any kind of special needs, um, who live normally in a unique classroom setting as opposed to not fully integrated, right. Those are the children that are students, that there are special accommodations being made for.

Carlo Zen: Right. So for example, students who are, who have the exceptionality, uh, developmental disability, um, and are Board, those are, those students are in a self contained classrooms, right? With, uh, within their, in smaller class sizes to begin with. So those would be the kinds of classes we're talking about. Correct.

Barbara Evoy: Thank you so much for clarifying. Okay. So as I said earlier, we are going to go elementary to secondary in that order, we're going to start with you superintendent Slater, what are some of the main differences that parents might see now where they to go into a school then as a sidebar, I know that a lot of boards, including ourselves have posted on our website pictures of what the actual classroom looks like now. Um, and then when I'm not going to mention them, but I think you probably will about some of the physical changes that a parent will see if they were to look in the window today. So can you speak?

Carlo Zen: Yeah, for sure. Uh, some of the things that I've mentioned, some of the signage and striping in the halls and things, but beyond that in the classrooms, uh, something that very much in the past, uh, parents would have seen is groupings of students. So either at tables or clusters of desks put together and they would be sitting somewhat like we are and looking at each other, uh, our direction has absolutely been to have students facing one direction and facing the front of the room so far more, what I would call a traditional classroom, where you saw rows of desks across and forward and facing in, in

Gary Slater: That direction, uh, in order to maximize the space between all of the desks, we are, we've removed a fair bit of furniture. So some classrooms might've had a spinning rack of novels. So those novels are now on shelves in the room against the wall. And the spinning rack has gone. There may have been extra tables and other kinds of furniture, which won't be there. Yeah, there'll be far fewer touchpoints, but, but the biggest reason for doing that was to spread students out. And that was something that was very clear from our discussions with public health. They said, that's one of the biggest priorities is to have students spread out in their space

Barbara Evoy: And kids will not. And we'll talk about this at the secondary level as well, but, uh, we will come back to talking about what does that mean? What do they need to bring as opposed to what they used to need to bring? I know there's something on the website about, uh, what the needs are of, of the children when they come in, what we're asking them, not to bring, because there is no locker access there's no, is there access to the little cubbies that they once had? Are those still in use for the elementary?

Gary Slater: So, yeah, we've had some recent discussions about this and, and this is one of the things that has been ongoing. I would say since back in June w direction comes out, we've modeled things and seen how they work. And even up to just this week, think re thinking and rethinking. So things like the cubbies say in a kindergarten room, initially, we had thought, no, cause we didn't want students congregating close by. But the reality is for those kids is that they need somewhere to put things. And so we, we will let schools have a process in place. So codebooks even so we're thinking what if the first day of school is rainy, kids will have raincoats and they can't just take that in the classroom. So we'll have schools put a process in place where students can distance hang things up on the coat hooks, go in the room in smallest groups so that they are maintaining that to two meter distance and then be able to access those things. Um, but one thing that I would like to really emphasize is that we're strongly encouraging students to only bring the bare minimum that they need to bring.

Barbara Evoy: There's no desks. I know it's a weird question, but in the old days we had our desks, we lifted our stuff up nicely, a lot of tables, not unlike this now, have we had to add desks to so that kids can keep their stuff in one place or what have you.

Gary Slater: Well, and, and, and that varies by classroom sometimes by School they look different all over. Absolutely. We have desks. I don't think I've seen one that the top

That's right. Uh, so, uh, so we not, but not every classroom will, there will be still some tables in, uh, classrooms and, uh, adhering to physical distancing, uh, best we can with that, but certainly, um, uh, tables and, and desks, the predominant

Carlo Zen: Thing that's in clubs.

Barbara Evoy: Thank you. And to you superintendent Zen, how will high school is looked at

Carlo Zen: A lot of similarities as, as elementary schools? So, uh, the big thing is, um, you know, reducing the amount of clutter, uh, and, uh, nonessential, uh, sort of furniture in the classroom. That'll be a, a big, uh, big one and same thing. Students would be facing the front of the room. Um, so pretty minimalistic in terms of what's, what's actually in the classroom, uh, students, you were right, you mentioned lockers. They, they don't have their, their locker or their locker access as they normally do. And again, that's so that they're not congregating and stopping in the halls. We really want to keep the flow of traffic kind of moving. But if you think about high schools, that's where students, especially during break times, we'll we'll congregate. And so I think that will help students get, get to class a little bit, a little bit quicker, and they're only going to be taking on any given week a single course. So they don't have to bring a bunch of, of their materials. We'll just need to bring what they need for that, that week.

Barbara Evoy: You guys have thought of everything. I have to say, even when I think I thought of everything,

Carlo Zen: It's a work in progress for sure. And Gary mentioned where, you know, we're changing every day, but for sure,

Barbara Evoy: Utilizing any of the spaces like gymnasiums cafeterias and things like that, and maybe briefly, cause we're already running out of time, if you can believe it. Um, what about certain classes like shop, um, it's things like that. Can you just give our viewers a bit of insight?

Carlo Zen: Yeah, for sure. So, um, what we've, what we've kept open in schools is, is areas for instructional purposes. So gymnasiums are open for phys ed classes, but we're not having our assemblies in there. There's no intermurals running that lunch. There's no afterschool.

Barbara Evoy: How is that class is gonna run with due respect, sorry. I'm not sure I, with all the kids sweating and

Carlo Zen: Sure. We've actually worked with some of our teachers over the summer in August. And they developed guidelines specifically for phys ed that, that take into consideration activities that can be, you know, more physically distanced. And so we actually have documents related to physio. We have some from music and technology. Um, so the food services, the, the food schools, the food classes in our high schools will operate. Um, but in the past, those, those, um, classes would produce, they would serve the community, they would serve the school. And so, um, they can, they can produce food, but the food can't be distributed outside of the classroom. So there's right, right. And our libraries are closed. Our cafeterias are closed because there's no, there's no lunch.

Barbara Evoy: So do we have any need for these spaces? I know we hear a lot. All of us have heard a lot. Why can't we make the classrooms smaller? Of course, we're not talking about the adding teachers, but for the time being about using other spaces, will they just be at rest for now?

Carlo Zen: Because, um, they, they could be repurposed for, for some, you know, for some, uh, some classroom activity, but for the most part, in terms of being open to the general student body that they're closed. So the library for example is closed, but you could end up with a classroom being assigned in that workspace.

Barbara Evoy: Great. So we only have a couple minutes before. What we're going to do is take a quick break, allow you both to get up and shake your legs a little bit. And then we're going to come back and we're going to do our second half an hour immediately following. So we do have a couple of minutes left. There are definitely things that we're noticing that are unique to each panel, certain changes that have to be made and adapted within the elementary versus the secondary. What supports are going to be in place for children. And at this point I'm talking wee little ones, J K S K children coming to school for the first time I have a granddaughter. I never talk about our grandchildren, but I know that I've heard about what they're doing in their province, because of course moms are not going to be able to come in holding their little child's hand and walking them to the classroom anymore. So over to you, mr. Slater, what does first day look like for someone who's never been? Sure.

Gary Slater: And the, I think one of the, what you've pointed out is what will be different. So yeah, they're normally in the past, we would have had a time where the students could come to the school, go in, see what the school looked like, see what their classroom look like, see what their teacher, their teacher looks like as well as their classroom and those kinds of things. We can't do those this year, obviously. So what we are trying to do is to provide some of that visually, as you mentioned on our website. So some pictures of classrooms, uh, it will look different School to School for sure. Uh, but provide some of that information. We will have, uh, teachers calling home the first week of school. It's not necessarily to speak to the students, but just to a call to the home, to confirm this child is coming, maybe speak to parents and, and ask some general questions and, and let them know who they are and what, uh, class their child will be in. And do some of those kinds of things.

Barbara Evoy: Sorry, there's apologies. That'll start the week of the ninth then that those phone calls will start happening. Yeah.

Gary Slater: The day after labor day, the first day of school. So we would hope that that would all happen within the first two days that every family would get a phone call. And again, not necessarily to have a conversation with the child, but just introduce themselves to the parents so they can reassure. But it does go back to one of your very first points to say, go to the School website and have a look. Cause every school has posted a planet.

Barbara Evoy: The Board, let's be very clear. Uh, we only have a couple of minutes left, so it's kind of perfect timing. Um, we are, of course, you're welcome to go to Upper Grand or you um, backslash fall 2020. But I think you're probably going to find more information. If you go to the school that your child or schools that your child or children will be attending and look at the website, I'm not asking you to call the administration, go to the website and you're sure to find all the answers that you need.

Gary Slater: Yeah. And I would just reinforce that, cause it'll say, what do I do the first day? Where am I going to go? Absolutely. Some will have maps and pointing out various areas on the, on the playground or where to line up. It does look different from school to school, but there's just a wealth of information there to help

Barbara Evoy: Parents to be able to talk to their child. What does School going to look like?

Which is really important. And in that we don't have enough time to go to a question. I do want to take a minute and point out that I know that the staff at every school board, of course, I'm going to celebrate Upper Grand, but this staff, the superintendents, the executive directors, communication people, you guys, I I'm actually getting a shiver as I say this, because the, the, the respect that I have for you and your colleagues is limitless. I can't, I can't even find the words, which is unusual for me, but you guys have just done an incredible job and continue to do an incredible job. I don't think a lot of our viewers realize that y'all have not had even so much as one day off since March 13th. So I just really want to take a minute and thank you all so much for the never ending hard work and passion that you guys dedicate to, to this cause. And on that note, guys, um, I am going to take, as I said, a short break, we've got a lot of questions left. I do want to remind you, as I said, in the beginning, we are seated at, uh, socially distanced, um, spaces. So we chose not to wear a mask because we're all at least six feet apart. So in case you were unsure about that, we are being very careful as well.

And on that note,

Don't go anywhere or go somewhere, have a quick stretch and come right back. I'm Barb Evoy host of Parenting with Barbara on YourTV.

Hi, and welcome back to Parenting with Barbara on YourTV. My name is Barb Evoy and I'm the host for today's really, really interesting and incredibly informative show all about safe, reopening during COVID-19, uh, for the schools. Again, I want to remind you that we are absolutely all seated six feet apart. There's only one other person in the studios today, and we take health and safety very seriously here at YourTV as well as add Upper Grand District School Board okay, so we're going to go right to it. Our guests, once again, our superintendent Gary Slater and superintendent Carlo Zen, I'm going to go right into our next questions because 30 minutes goes really quickly and y'all have a lot to say. So, um, we're talking about at the, at the top of this session, we're talking about online or virtual education. There's a lot of people with a lot of questions, everybody that is registered for online has already done.

So, um, that doesn't mean, of course, that they can't leave bricks and mortar and go on to a virtual, but we'll talk about why they can't go from virtual back into bricks and mortar we'll address that shortly. But, you know, I it's fair to say both to both of you, gentlemen. I think it's fair to say that between March and the end of June, collectively, globally, uh, we were all trying to figure out how to keep our children educated, giving them something during, uh, absolutely unprecedented times. Everybody was doing everything for the first time. And I've heard a lot of people with a lot to say about the quality of education to which I respond. We all did our very best. And I thank everybody for the hard work that they did. So, uh, on that note, can we talk a little bit about the difference? So we know last year specifically for secondary mr. Zen, um, we know that there was not nearly the same level of demand from our students regarding output. Uh, we changed exams. We, we taught we'll talk about EQA or later on, but we basically brushed everything aside and stuck with primarily numeracy and literacy, meaning math, writing, reading, things like that. Tell me things that are going to be different than

Carlo Zen: Sure. Barb. So on the secondary side, you mentioned that there are quite a few students who have opted for, um, our remote learning or virtual school. So we have about 1400 students and Upper Grand in that situation. Um, and so they're going to be enrolled in about 120 while they will all be girls 120 course, there's 120 courses being offered and they will be enrolled, uh, to start in a couple of courses. Um, and, but it does look very different. The, the administrators released a policy and program memorandum, which we call PPMS, uh, specifically on remote learning. And as clearly outlined in that memorandum, what is expected of school boards to offer in terms of, uh, virtual learning for students? So in the, in the, uh, so on the high school site, um, they do have to be engaged in, uh, 225 minutes. So students grade nine to 12 have to be engaged 225 minutes in a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning.

So synchronous, synchronous would be real time, uh, learning, right? Um, so a teacher could be online with their whole class, uh, doing the lesson safe for, for an hour or so, uh, that, and then they might, uh, they might break from there. And then, uh, some students could be working asynchronously, which is not in real time on some work. And the teacher might, uh, continue to stay online with individual students or groups of students to work. So that would be 225 minutes of the day would be spent, uh, in that kind of an environment. So students have to take attendance, they will, they will get on, uh, online at a specific time in the day. And they will work through a schedule day, which we've outlined on our website. So it's a very structured day and they're engaged with their teacher though the, the entire, the entire time, uh, in both like, as I mentioned, a synchronous environment, as well as an asynchronous.

Barbara Evoy: So I think it's fair to say. And, and in, in fairness, I didn't, uh, speak to you about this in the pre-interview, but, um, correct me if I'm wrong. So, um, Mike decides to go online and he checks in at the regular check in time, whatever that is in the morning, this is for the student who's online all day. Um, and so he checks in in the morning, um, maybe mr. Smith does an hour of lecture at that point, then he'll be given the equivalent of what he would be given to work on something in the classroom. Um, and so at which point you can turn off his computer. So he's not staring at it for five hours. Does the work, and then mr. Smith will say, I want to see you all back here in two hours and will there be a preschedule so that the kids can tell ahead of time, I'm always going to be free at 10 o'clock from 10 to noon. Mom will be the time that I work on my assignments, right?

Carlo Zen: No, absolutely. There'll be a schedule that's provided to the students. So the, the sample model we have online is the first thing in the morning at 9:00 AM. All the students are in their class virtually with their teacher. Uh, they come back again at say one o'clock same with the same thing. So it will be very scheduled. The students will know exactly when they need to be online and they will follow the direction of their teacher. So they'll be given a weekly schedule of what they need to do. It's a model that we used really effectively in continuing ed this summer with our summer school students and it, and it worked very well. We received a lot of really positive feedback about that. So it is very much a structured day and you raise a good point because even in a, in an in class environment, the teacher is not always instructing that the students are, are working in, uh, individually. Sometimes they're working in groups and you have to allow for that time for them to be practicing what they're working on or to be doing their work. So it's going to mirror very much what you would see in a classroom except you're in a virtual.

Barbara Evoy: So the next, the next question is around, um, a teenager who, uh, may not be, uh, who we may struggle to keep and thoroughly engaged for four, 300 minutes on a good day. Um, the fact that we are, we are doing, which, by the way, I think this model is exceptional. I know that many people have followed suit. I think the quad master is incredible kudos to all who came up with the idea, but it is going to be different. And yes, it's going to be challenging for some in the beginning. And I think we can go back to our earlier show. When we talked about the role of the parent, we're not asking you to teach the children, we're actually asking you only to reinforce that yes, they need to be at their desk or in a workspace, whether it's sitting on the couch or whatever that space might be in a workspace for 300 minutes or 225 minutes of the day, right.

Carlo Zen: and ultimately in secondary, there are, there is a credit hour requirements. So students do have to complete the curriculum. They do have to put in the hours that are involved in order to get that, that credit in that course. So, so the expectations are there and the students will have to engage. And, and for students that, you know, students are struggling, we'll continue to do the same kinds of things. We always did reach out, reach out to them in different ways to reach out to parents, make sure everybody's informed of what's going on. So all of the things we normally do, we'll still take place for students who are learning virtually.

Barbara Evoy: That's really important to know, because I know a lot of parents, uh, specifically in this conversation about teenagers, who we may struggle with motivating sometimes, um, that, that there will be structure to the day, uh, and that there will be expectations. Are we testing? Are we, uh, doing exams? What does that look like? So they're doing an entire semester's worth of work in

Carlo Zen: Five weeks, correct?

Barbara Evoy: Right. So that means that's, it's considerably different. Yeah. It's I think, I really believe. And if you're, if you are one of the families who have chosen this option, uh, I work online and have worked online with our students since March. Uh, my husband is a teacher in another Board high school. And the success is incredible. Once you decide to buy into the idea that this is the way it is, it can be incredibly effective.

Carlo Zen: I believe it can be. And again, we saw great success in the summer and, uh, and we think it will be very successful for students we'll work and we'll work hard at it. And we'll fix things along the way

Barbara Evoy: And they'll reach out to their regular, um, cert or principal or vice principal or guidance. The parents will reach out that way. Should they be running into any issues?

Carlo Zen: Well, it's a bit of a, it's a bit of a hybrid. So the remote School and both panels have their own administrative teams that we've put in place. So there will be print a principal and vice principals for both schools. Um, on the secondary side, we do have guidance staff that have been allocated to the schools, but with respect to our support services or our, um, child and youth care workers and our social workers, those, those, uh, roles we'll stay connected with the homeschool. Right. Um, we're still working out how special education will work out. So that's something on the agenda for tomorrow. We're working on it.

Barbara Evoy: Yeah, I think, uh, one of the things that, that I, I suspect everybody's going to be, feel a little bit overwhelmed in the beginning is that where you might call mom, if Johnny doesn't attend every third day, you might call her once a week to have a discussion. Whereas now every two or three days is one day. So you guys could be really busy.

Carlo Zen: Well, that's a great point. And that's the, you know, and that's a summer school that we, you know, if you miss three days of school, it's the trumpet and missing quite a bit. So you really have to be on top of attendance and absenteeism. And so we're going to have to pay very close attention to that.

Barbara Evoy: I do not consider taking holidays during School time. It's, it's always a challenge, but right now a week off is equivalent to a month off. So please rethink holidays during School time right now. Um, so thank you so much superintendents, and to use superintendent Slater what will online School look like. I know there's a whole different set of questions that we're hearing about concerned parents for online. School what will that look like? We have high numbers of children who have opted for this, correct?

Carlo Zen: We do, uh, right now we're looking at over 3,600, right. Which is quite a surprise actually. Uh, when we, our initial surveys

Gary Slater: Back in July, we, we thought the number would be a fair bit lower than that. Uh, but when we, uh, did the actual preregistration in early August, that's where we landed. So we, we do have a fair number of students. So the difference between what parents would have seen in the spring with the distance learning, and now is that again, there will be for grades one to eight, 225 minutes face to face in that synchronous learning with the teacher in kindergarten, it's a little lower, it's 180 minutes a day, and that's three hours. That's a lot of time, but it won't be a three hour straight trunk. So we realized that we need to break that up. And there will be periods of time during the day. The another big difference is that parents will be given a weekly schedule. So they will know what days what is happening.

And they will know when the students need to be online when the teacher will be online and what is happening. So, because parents have chosen this, we're very hopeful that they will be able to have their child available at those times when the teacher is available to do that instructional part. So that's one of the biggest differences is that schedule. The other thing that is mandated under what, uh, uh, superintendent Zen mentioned about the PPM from the ministry is that all subjects will be covered and you were right. We, we focused on math and language in the spring with some social studies and some other areas, but now the entire curriculum will be taught. So again, it's going to be much more intensive because all those subjects will be there. Various teachers will be there. French teachers will come in to teach core French, and they will be online with, with the students. So it will look again a little bit more like regular school, but just done virtually

Barbara Evoy: Arts and crafts and the littles. What happens to this aspect like, um, you know, we make school fun and, and I'm going to just take a very quick sidebar, cause this is fascinating, but I think the look of School is going to be more about academics right now than it is about some of the extra, extra extras that we traditionally have been adding and have come to embrace. I think it's definitely going to be a little less about that and a little more about the three RS as it were moving forward. So for kids, are they going to be like, will, will mrs. Smith be able to instruct to me on how to make an arts and craft or will mom know, but like, what does that look like? Will that,

Gary Slater: Well, that's a good question. And it was something that we, we did grapple with also in the spring, because we can't, uh, expect that every household has all of the same things available. So we can't say, Oh, you need one of these and one of these and one of these, and tomorrow we're going to do this. So teachers have to be really be thinking about that because that, that, that that's, that's not going to work. So you're right. Some of those specialized things, uh, won't be available in that way. Uh, we will still have the interface though, that we used in the spring. We use the Google platform and the Google classroom was, so teachers will be able to still post things in

Carlo Zen: There. If they need a teacher or a student to have a certain, uh, let's say something that they need to cut out or a diagram or something, they can put it in there and have it ready for, for down the road. So they can still do some of those things. But certainly some of that, other, as you would say, some of those more creative things it'll look different for sure.

Barbara Evoy: Parents, it's very important that we recognize that our parents are not being asked to teach their children. I heard that a lot. That is not what virtual learning means. We have a fully prepared and capable, extremely capable staff of people who are prepared to teach your child for you. So please don't take it upon yourself. It's not something we're asking you to do what happens in case of secondary, say mr. Zen where a student has say maybe gym and music in her first semester. So let's very quickly because time is going so quickly right now for high school, we see, um, regular high school. So that's not our online students, regular high school students will be in person in the mornings and in hell at home, online in the afternoons or vice versa or vice versa. Correct. Um, we don't really have time to go into why that decision was made other than the fact that it lowers numbers. So, uh, what about that student who has two nonacademic focus courses? How do they do those?

Carlo Zen: So this summer, um, we brought in some teachers, um, and I really got to give a shout out to the teachers that they came in and helped us out, uh, this summer. But we brought in teachers in the areas of physics and music and art in our tech programs, because those have again, a unique set of circumstances in there, and they're the experts in those subjects. So they came in, gave up their time in the summer and we have a pretty detailed documents for support to support teachers and instruction in those areas. So in the areas of physio ed, while we weren't prescriptive in terms of exactly what they do, they, it was more around setting the guidelines for how do you clean equipment if you're going to use equipment, how do you, um, the activities that you do have to make, maintain physical distancing.

So some of the traditional things you maybe would have done in phys ed, you, you can't do, you can't do that anymore. So it was really around, you know, incorporating fitness in a way that doesn't jeopardize, you know, uh, health, the health of students. And it keeps them as far apart as possible, uh, uh, subjects like music. Um, there are some restrictions around, for example, they use the wind instruments. So, um, a lot of our schools are able to send the wind instruments home. So the portion of the day, the students that are at home would be the time where they would practice on their wind instruments. And the in class time might be more around the theory that they would normally do, but, and you can still use the non wind instruments, um, in your classrooms while you just have to make sure that you, that you cleaned them and our tech shops similar, uh, the students can still use the machinery, but you have to make sure that, and at home will be more of those kinds of things, but, and then you have to make sure that the machinery is cleaned and, you know, between users and those kinds of things.

So, so students, I mean, it'll be different for sure. It's not going to obviously be the same as was. Um,

Gary Slater: But uh, those teachers have worked hard to make it as normal

Barbara Evoy: For students as possible. Right. Great. That's fantastic. There's so many things that come up. You know, we, uh, both my husband and I are educators, and we spent the entire summer in your shoes imagining being in your shoes and every conversation that we would have, one of us would say, yeah, but it's the ultimate picture of a web. So here's the problem. And there are endless threads that come from each problem and how it dominoes into everything else. So again, thank you and everybody so much for the, for the neverending hard work you've put into this. So, um, I'm sure there are tons of questions we're trying to get to all of them guys. Um, can we talk briefly about going in and out of online? So I mentioned briefly, if you have registered for bricks and mortar, then you can, if you so choose opt out and move online.

Gary Slater: So let me just clarify that whole thing right now. We asked parents back in August to make a choice, and we got an actual phenomenal return rate on that. So that was really good to have that information. And we then extended the deadline a little bit, cause we provided some more information. And then now what, what we have, we're in a situation where parents have chosen either in school or online. And right now, if you want to change, we have you on a waiting list either way. And what we're hoping to do very shortly is to be able to let parents make that switch if they need to right away, but then it will be closed. And for the elementary schools, there won't be an opportunity to switch until after that first progress report goes home in November. So later on in the fall, we will survey parents again, the, we will find out if there is any a buddy wanting to either come into the school or go and go online. And at that point, then we will provide a very clear date. It will be somewhere around November 30th, December 1st in that time zone for, for that switch to happen,

Barbara Evoy: Wherever you are, you are staying till the end,

Gary Slater: Right? And the, the, just so parents are reassured, we have got the curriculum set out for our school so that students will follow roughly the same curriculum. So if they start online and move into School, all of a sudden they won't be repeating subjects. So we've tried to streamline that as best we can, which is something that we have not done in the past. We haven't been that prescriptive, but we've tried to do that to minimize. So if, if students move classes, they won't all of a sudden be in that position.

Barbara Evoy: You nothing, there's nothing you've missed. I can't believe, you know what, you're right. As soon as I said it, I went well it's but we don't know what we don't know. Right. So, based on what we know, you guys have tapped every single, every single topic I want to go quickly to busing know blessing's a really big discussion, uh, in our area and beyond, but certainly maybe in our area a little bit more because we do have a large rural contingency of students. So people who may not take 20 minutes to get home, um, let's maybe let's start with this being about secondary. So we've had a lot of people talking about, they do their time in school in the morning, and there's not a lot of time to get home and get back online. You guys have done some great work around accommodating that. Do you want to speak briefly?

Carlo Zen: Sure. Um, so one of the things we've done is we've, we've expanded the, uh, the lunch hour a little bit. So students have about 75 minutes to get home. We know that that's not enough time for some of our world's students. Uh, some of them are riding the bus for an hour, plus they have to get home, have some lunch, um, and just get themselves ready. So for students that are engaged in that, that learning support from home. So they've done say their period, one class in person in the morning. Now they're attending. Now they're gonna jump on and do their remote portion. The afternoon, that period of time is going to be, um, it's not necessarily going to be a situation where the students have to get on at a certain time and, and log on. Uh, as we talked about in our virtual school.

So this would be, again, an opportunity for students to go home. They would be consolidating their learning. Um, the teachers that are supporting the students at home would be working with students on sort of one-on-one or in small groups. Um, so it wouldn't be necessary for a student to come and log on. Say at 15 in the afternoon, the teachers that are working together to support the students at home would, would sort of develop a plan, talk about which students they're going to check in with what the students are working on. So it would be almost like a, an individual kind of check in timetable with those students. And, and so the, and it would respect things like making sure they get home, uh, and afternoon. And yeah, so that, that won't be a concern. And if there's concerns, uh, if parents can just reach out to the teachers and we can certainly

Barbara Evoy: Let's reiterate that let's just readdress that from both panels, from all of us, from the entire system as a whole, if you're struggling, there's plenty of help out there. There are people at every level waiting if you need them waiting to serve you. So please don't think that you're in this alone, there is a ton, literally hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people waiting there to serve you. So if you run into problems, don't hesitate, contact the Board or your school and somebody somewhere

Carlo Zen: Help you figure it out. I think it's important to note Barb, we're, we're learning in this tube. It's, it's the first time we're going through this. So we'll make our mistakes. And if, if we can keep the lines of communication open and respectful and we'll, we'll we'll fix any problems.

Barbara Evoy: I totally, I have no, no qualms. Um, so superintendents, uh, Slater a little bit about what busing will look like. We do have parents who are concerned about what that bus looks like. So, um, just a brief picture of what a journey on the bus to school.

Carlo Zen: Yeah. Look like. Sure. It's interesting because there's a lot of talk

Gary Slater: Early on in this process that there would be 24 students on a bus, which may read regularly, hold up to 72 students. And that a lot of, I think a lot of us in the system, as well as parents, I heard that message and that was sort of a one student per seat message, but the way that it has evolved over the summer and having our school Board be directed by the province to open in a regular conventional mode is what they termed it. That isn't the case. But it also doesn't mean that every school bus has 72 students on it. The average is sort of, I'm going to say in the fifties to me, somewhere in that zone. Yeah. We've also had a lot of parents opt to come to school, but not ride the bus. So there's 30%. Yeah. It was quite hard.

It was quite high. So that'll again, reduce the numbers. Now, the important thing to know is that the roots are still going to run as if they're normal. And the reason for that is because if we do at that change over point, have more students either come into the school, we need to have the route ready to pick them up. So we won't be rerouting come these change points in the year. So, uh, we don't know for sure, because then there's some students who are eligible for the bus and they never take the bus and that's not new. That's, that's older. So, uh, there's a little uncertainty. I think about the actual number. Uh, we will have seating plans for all the students on the bus. So we will know, and students will find out where they're to sit. We're trying to group them according to their class so we can keep them together with that cohorted class grouping. Uh, there will be a requirement for masking on the bus, just like at school, as well as some spacing so that the, there will be a space behind the driver. That's mostly for the drivers, uh, safety, but that first seat will be empty for the driver. And if students forget their mask in the morning and they arrive at the stop, the driver will have some spare masks to help the students to, to be able to have one.

Barbara Evoy: I think we could sit here with five minutes left and envision or imagine any number of possible scenarios. But the truth of the matter is until we get in there, we have done all the pre-work that we can do. And then some, and yes, questions may arise. And I think it's important to note that we're, we're aware that things could change and fall. We keep hearing that it might, and that it could, but I reiterate that it's our collective responsibility to do our best to flatten that curve. We're not trying to eradicate, uh, to eradicate COVID-19. We are trying at this point to flatten the curve and help the public health system and everybody else to stay in business and to allow our communities to continue to thrive as we've started.

Gary Slater: Yeah. If I can just add one thing Barb I know our time is running short, but I'm the director of public health. Uh, dr. Nicola Mercer has made the point that it takes a community to open the School. We, we, I love that too, because it really speaks to everybody being on board, helping out wearing the masks, uh, supporting distancing and all of those pieces. And absolutely it's true. It will make a huge difference in terms of how smooth things go. And when we run into a bump yeah, we're going to problem solve and, and work and fix that. And it'll be a largely to the degree that we can all come together to make this work. I really do.

Barbara Evoy: I do. I really agree. I'm obviously an extremely community minded person, and I believe that we, especially here in Wellington County do that pretty well. We're, we're pretty good at supporting one another. And I think that we just need to raise our bar a titch more and continue to reach out and to be there and to follow the rules. I mean, essentially social distancing, wearing masks and washing your hands. These are not really big asks. You might remember back in March when this happened, there was a couple of memes, but certainly one that went around saying, we're not asking you to go to war or literally asking you to wash your hands. So it's, you know, there's, there's some, we can find some reason to smile through all of this it's challenging, but I think it's really up to our parents and our families and our communities to continue to do some of the work to make sure this is the success we anticipate it will be. So I think at the end of the day, it's safe to say that the work has been and continues to be done by the directors, by the superintendents, by the leads of all the departments, including the teachers, the EAs, the ECE, the support staff. I can't say enough about how much I want to take this last minute, celebrating every single person, every single group that has been doing the hard work to make sure that our kids can go back to school safely. And

Gary Slater: I would agree it's been a complete team effort from the board level and at a certain point in August, it transferred to the schools and they've picked up the ball and just run with it. It's been fantastic.

Yeah. It's kind of exciting. It's kind of, I know it's a difficult time, but they say it brings out the best in people and I definitely, I definitely salute. Alright, that's it. I know there were a lot of questions. I'm sure you still have questions. If you do, please visit either the School backslash fall 2020, preferably and alternatively, please visit the website that your child or children of the school or schools that they will be attending for more detailed answers. Once again, superintendent Slater superintendent Zen from Upper Grand District School Board. Thank you so much for being my guest today and to you. Thank you for joining us here on Parenting with Barbara on YourTV have a great day.

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