Final Recommendations: Special Board Meeting on School Reopening

Final Recommendations: Special Board Meeting on School Reopening
Posted on 07/10/2020
Final Recommendations: Special Board Meeting on School Reopening

On July 9 and 10, the Board of Trustees held a Special Board meeting to discuss plans for school reopening in September.

The meeting began with parent delegates speaking about their experiences and sharing their thoughts ahead of the trustee discussion. The Board also received additional written statements from parents which were shared with trustees.

Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health - Ottawa Public Health, also attended the meeting. Dr. Etches said she recommended that students attend school five days a week and would be advocating to the provincial government on this matter.

At the conclusion of the Board meeting, trustees made the following recommendations:


1. Report 20-061, Planning for Return to School in September

Moved by Trustee Schwartz, seconded by Trustee Fisher,

  1. THAT the Board prefers all students return to full-time instruction, including Extended Day Program, five days a week, with enhanced cleaning and hygiene in September 2020.

  2. THAT the Board direct staff to orient all work around children’s human right to education as per article 26 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Canada’s commitment to achieve Sustainable Development Goal #4 Quality Education; 

  3. THAT the Board direct staff to develop high-level plans for the implementation of scenarios for the delivery of public education during the 2020-21 school year, commencing in September 2020, for approval by the Board in accordance with guidance from the Ministry of Education and the guiding principles outlined in Report 20-061, as amended;

  4. THAT the 2020-2021 Staff Recommended Budget identify the provisions and estimates associated with the implementation of the scenarios that will guide the return to school in September; 

  5. THAT regular financial reports be provided to the Board on the costs and any recoveries arising as a direct result of the pandemic throughout the 2020-21 school year, such as the implementation of the return to school plans and any other costs and recoveries associated with operational adjustments that might need to be made during the year in response to COVID-19; 

  6. THAT the Board include a standing item on each Committee of the Whole agenda for the 2020-21 school year in order to receive regular updates on the implementation of the board’s pandemic response plans, to evaluate the effectiveness of these plans, and to determine on an ongoing basis whether adjustments need to be made by the board; THAT staff be directed to work creatively, including the investigation of how other jurisdictions in and outside Canada have safely provided return to classroom schooling, on an equal priority basis, and in close concert, with Ottawa Public Health (OPH), to seek to develop a broadly costed, workable, full-time September return plan for both school and EDP, that is explicitly endorsed by OPH as satisfactorily addressing all local Ottawa full-time return risks as at endorsement time, for presentation to the Ministry in expected August conferencing;

  7. THAT staff be directed to carefully review such discretionary OCDSB operating and capital spending, including possible pausing of current multi-year investment or deficit management plans, as may be needed for sufficient reprioritization of funds to support such emergency spending as may be required in order to obtain local Public Health endorsement of a plan for the full-time return to school by September and/or as consistently thereafter as possible; and

  8. The Chair of the Board write to the Minister of Education and to the Premier of Ontario to express the Board’s concern that the current Back to School Recovery plan, and the “hybrid” or “adapted” model, in particular, leave working parents with young children, single-parent households, and low-income families in the precarious position of having to choose between educating their children and their own employment and that any Back to School Recovery plan needs to accommodate getting as many students as possible back into physical schools and spaces, while respecting public health advice, the letter to be copied to OPSBA, its member boards and Ottawa MPPs, and include the following: 

 i.      The OCDSB 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 investment in public education;

 ii.      Ask the Ministry to provide emergency and continuing funding to school districts to cover all extra COVID-19-related costs including, but not limited to, PPE, additional staffing, transportation, IT, supports for mental health and well-being, cleaning supplies, and essential school retrofitting and maintenance.

Key Principles

Staff has reflected on the principles which have been guiding our work to date and has document the following which the Board might consider formally adopting as guiding principles:


  • The safety and well-being of students and staff is our first priority;

  • The OCDSB recognizes the importance of full-time learning at school to support student achievement and well-being and is committed to working towards the return of full-time learning for a September start, or as soon thereafter as may be permitted by both the Ministry and Ottawa Public Health;

  • The OCDSB recognizes (a) the unique and important value of schools to supporting the ability of families, our community and the economy to return to operation, and (b) the suboptimal nature of remote learning at home, and also the significant family stresses this can create;

  • District planning will be done with flexibility and agility and in a way that will allow as many students to access face to face learning as frequently as possible within safety guidelines with greater priority provided to the return of both full-time school and Extended Day Program (EDP) services to elementary grades; 

  • The OCDSB will demonstrate its commitment to equity principles and wherever possible will differentiate the delivery model to address the needs our most vulnerable students (including special education needs, English Language Learners, school communities that are impacted by poverty);

  • The OCDSB is committed to creating safe and welcoming learning environments at school and at home with access to quality instruction; and

  • The OCDSB recognizes the importance of collaboration and will continue to make decisions in consultation with key partners at the table, and returning to Board for approval of any proposal short of full-time schooling rooted in local district school board discretion permitted by both the Ministry and Ottawa Public Health.

2. Report 20-062, Revisions to the School Year Calendar - Key Dates

Moved by Trustee Campbell, seconded by Trustee Hough,

THAT the revised school year calendars attached as Appendix A and Appendix B to Report 20-062 be submitted to the Ministry of Education as the official 2020-2021 school year calendar for the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board's elementary and secondary schools.

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