My school board put forward a plan at the end of last week that would have reduced class sizes at the elementary level to 15 (JK-3) or 20 (4-8) at a cost of only $20M. They planned to reassign all specialist teachers to a single classroom, dramatically cutting the number of new teachers who would need to be hired, as well as limiting the cross-cohort contacts (since the specialist teachers would no longer be going into multiple classrooms to teach their subjects). To achieve this, they needed move the teachers’ prep periods to the end of the school day, which would mean that the students were dismissed 48 minutes earlier.
It was exactly the kind of creative, innovative, out-of-the-box thinking that we need to manage this pandemic. It would have made physical distancing possible in the classrooms. For many parents it would have made the decision about whether to send their children back to school so much easier.
The government said no.
We are three weeks out from the official start of the school year, and my board had to pause their registration process to determine how many students would be opting for remote learning (instead of face-to-face) because they still don’t have a plan approved by the provincial government.
I’m so angry.
It is an abdication of their job as the government to download the responsibility to come up with a functioning plan for the schools onto the school boards.
But to reject a plan that would have helped to keep safe everyone in the province’s largest (and likely most vulnerable to COVID outbreaks) school board, a plan that would have given the schools a fighting chance to stay open when the second wave comes (and, let’s remember, our provincial government reopened the bars only a few short weeks ago, so the second wave will come)?
That is unconscionable.
I have been calling and emailing and calling and emailing ever since I heard the news.
I feel like I’m screaming into the void.*
We are three weeks out from the start of the school year, and I have no idea if I will send my children into a classroom.
As I said to the premier and the minister for education in one of my emails, parents are utterly overwhelmed by the impossible balancing act that has been our lives since mid-March. We desperately need our children to go back to school, but we also need to believe that they will be safe there.
My school board threw us a lifeline.
My government left us to drown.
*I recognize that it is a sign of my own immense privilege that this is really one of the first times in my adult life that I can remember a government making a decision that is so openly detrimental to my family. I haven’t always been a fan of our governments (federal, provincial, or municipal) and they have certainly made decisions that I have strongly disagreed with (and protested), but this is the first one that feels viscerally personal.