Message from Mr. Paul Triemstra, on behalf of the OCS Leadership Team. See questions and answers below.
Ottawa Christian School will be open full time for all students in the fall even if they must have cohorts of 15 or less. OCS will be able to meet the criteria laid out by the province and will not need to do blended learning (on line and in school.) Should the province mandate school closures OCS would likely follow that direction. The OCS leadership team, Mr. Triemstra, Mrs. Naftel, and Mr. Stassen, continue to make detailed plans as to how to open the school safely in a way that meets all the guidelines laid out by the province. As of September 8, when OCS is scheduled to open, the students will have been away from school for 180 days. No doubt being able to come to school on a daily basis will be a relief to the students, the parents and the teachers.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Q. Didn’t you present an option for a blended learning scenario at the membership meeting? Why is that no longer necessary?
A. After reviewing the guidelines issued by the province at the end of June which said we needed to make plans for student cohorts of 15, we realized that we could do that and still have all the students in the school.
Q. How will you keep the cohorts separate? After all we will have homeroom classes with more than 15 students.
A. We have a number of options that we can use depending on the age of the students and the size of the classes. For instance we could make the Learning support class a regular class room and have a portion of the grade 2 class there while we have another small group in the library with an EA. There would then be space for the grade 1 homeroom to use the grade 1 and 2 classes for separate cohorts. Again an EA would support the teacher in this. In other classes we could have a Plexiglas divider through the middle of the class to create two cohorts within the same classroom. We also have several activity rooms that can be used for smaller cohorts. We also have the potential of using the art and music classrooms for cohorts.
Q. What does this mean for specialty subjects?
A. We are assuming that if we are required to go to cohorts of 15 that the art teacher and music teacher will go to the classrooms. This will change the programs considerably. This is especially so in music where choir and traditional band will not be able to happen. In any rotation the teachers will go to the students and students will not move to other classrooms. Even if we do not have cohorts of 15 the specialty teachers will need to go to the students’ classes.
Q. What about PE?
A. The students need to move around. For the most part PE will be outside. Other protocols may be needed when the gym is to be used.
Q. What about learning support if that room is changed into a regular classroom?
A. The learning support office will still be used for one-to-one support and Mrs. Naftel and EA’s will be moving to where students are. The music room, the art room or other unused activity rooms can be used for small group support.
Q. If you start off with cohorts will this be the scenario used all year long?
A. Not necessarily. In fact, we may start off the school with normal class sizes and then have to move to cohorts. We could start off with cohorts and then move to whole class learning. Should the province at some point in the school year mandate that schools close, the teachers will have units prepared specifically for such an event. In other words it will not be emergency on line learning like we did in the spring, but much more cohesive and planned learning. The teachers will be returning to school at least a week earlier than they otherwise would to ensure they have such plans in place.
Q. Will parents be able to be in the school in the same way as the past?
A. No, protocols will need to be put in place for all parents or visitors in the school. Physical distancing will need to be ensured when parents need to interact with the front office or with the students.
Q. Will the OCS Board and Leadership Team continue to follow the guidelines laid out by the Ontario government as it pertains to schools?
A. Yes, we will. We also have the benefit of being part of a larger group of Christian schools in Ontario called Edvance. They have given and will continue to give us a tremendous amount of timely guidance.
Q. What is this maximum 5% surcharge all about?
A. We will need to purchase additional cleaning supplies, Plexiglas and personal protective equipment. Further extra cleaning will be required on a regular basis. These are some of the things we will need to do to ensure the safety of our students.
Q. How will the surcharge be assessed?
A. It will be assessed on the sliding scale. For example, if a family is at the minimum tuition they will be assessed 5% of the base tuition of $8,920 or $445. The number of children they have at school will not affect this calculation.
Q. When will this surcharge be applied and how will this happen.
A. This will be applied later in the summer as we need to assess our costs and the Finance Committee needs to determine the best way to collect this surcharge.
Q. What if the school does not use all of this surcharge income because of increased revenue?
A. A number of options could be available. Should families be in the fiscal situation that allows them, they can donate this to the school. At parent’s request we can also credit the remaining to the following year’s tuition.
Q. Are there any things parents can do to mitigate costs?
A. Yes. We will likely need cleaning of many surfaces in the school twice during the school day. It would be very helpful if we have a roster of parents who could be trained to clean commonly touched surfaces in public places.
Q. Is there anything else parents should be doing?
A. Please continue following provincial guidelines in public places. Wear masks in confined public spaces and limit your social bubble. If we limit the likelihood of outbreaks in our community we will limit the disruption of education. Consider whether you are set up for the unlikely event of a return to on-line learning. Do you have sufficient bandwidth as well as enough devices to support all learners in your home? Finally continue to pray for the staff as they plan for a number of different possibilities and for the board as they continue to make decisions throughout the summer.