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OCDSB Letter to Minister of Education re School Re-opening and Additional Funding Office of the Chair of the Board 133 GREENBANK ROAD, OTTAWA, ONTARIO K2H 6L3 Tel: (613) 721-1820 Fax: (613) 820-6968 24-Hour Automated Information Line (613) 596-8222 Web Site: www.ocdsb.ca Sent by email: stephen.lecce@pc.ola.org 22 July 2020 The Honourable Stephen Lecce Minister of Education 438 University Ave, 5th Floor Toronto, Ontario M7A 1N3 RE: School Re-opening and Additional Funding Dear Minister Lecce, The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board believes that a full and measured emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery/reopening requires an ambitious and creative plan that supports communities, families and children, and prioritizes investm ent in public education. The Board’s unequivocal first choice is for our students to begin their new school year in September with attendance in school for in -person instruction five days a week. We are very concerned that the current Back to School Reco very Plan, in particular the possibility of having to follow a “hybrid” or “adapted” model, will leave working parents of young children, single-parent households and low-income families in the precarious position of having to choose between educating their children and earning a living for their families. We are also concerned about further damage to the mental health of children and their families, who are already stressed by the uncertainties and challenges of the past few months. Children need school, and many of our younger children also need access to reliable safe childcare and Extended Day Programs. We appreciate your previous announcement of additional funding in support of mental health, technology and enhanced cleaning of our school facilities. However, the cost of the many adaptations required to follow the best guidance from public health officials to prevent further spread of COVID-19 and to comply with your guidelines will exceed the funding you have announced thus far. Regardless of the model we must follow, enhancements will be necessary to ensure quality programming delivered in the safest way possible. Synchronous learning means more technology to support remote learning for families who decide that in -person learning presents too much risk. Personal protective equipment will not only be needed for all staff who must be in close contact with students, but also for staff who are themselves at risk from COVID - 19.Even in your guideline, you acknowledge that cohorts of 15 students will r equire additional space and additional staff even in a hybrid model, and you make no reference to limits on class size to accommodate distancing in a “normal” model with enhanced public health protocols. In any of the models, we anticipate a need for additional staff, to implement enhanced and improved remote learning for those who choose it, to address cohorting challenges for those attending in person, and to address the learning gaps that have grown for many students since the shutdown began in March. For all of the models, we will need to have everything in place and ready to implement for all three models so that we can migrate smoothly from one model to another as the state of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change. We also need to make the physical changes in our school facilities to ensure they are safe spaces for students and staff. We therefore ask you, Minister, to provide additional emergency funding and continuing funding to school districts, enhancing what has been announced to date, to support the considerable costs of providing personal protective equipment, additional teaching and support staff where necessary to allow safely distanced every-day in-school instruction, and improvements to facilities such as better ventilation systems, touch-free sinks and other similar renovations to minimize the transmission of infection. Sincerely, Lynn Scott Chair, Board of Trustees cc: The Honourable Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario Nancy Naylor, Deputy Minister of Education Cathy Abraham, President, OPSBA W.R. (Rusty) Hick, Executive Director, OPSBA Trustees, Ottawa-Carleton District School Board Senior Staff, Ottawa-Carleton District School Board Corporate Records