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Elementary Reorganization

Tuesday, October 6, 2020
Categories: Happenings @ TDSB

Dear Elementary Parent(s)/Guardian(s),

This is an important update about teacher staffing and classroom changes to TDSB elementary schools, effective the week of October 13, 2020. This update explains the reasons for these changes and how they will happen in our schools. Please review this information carefully to understand how these changes may impact students in both in-person (in-school) and virtual schools.

Important Background Information

In late spring of every year, the TDSB plans for the number of students expected to attend school the following September. We then allocate the number of teachers required for each school and class, based on projected enrolment. The number of teachers required in each school and class is primarily determined by class size limits as per Regulations in the Education Act or through Collective Agreements.

At the beginning of each school year, schools review the actual number of students attending schools and in each class, and the number of teachers who were allocated to each school. Classes are then reorganized, as required, to meet class size limits. In a typical year, the difference between the planned enrolment and the actual number of students who attend school in September is very small. As a result, only minor adjustments are needed that may result in, for example, students changing teachers or the creation of split grade classes. In cases where a school has more teachers than required by its enrolment, teachers are reassigned to different schools. This is a very important process because there are significant financial implications for the TDSB when classes are not organized efficiently and there are more teachers than required in our schools. For example, every 100 extra teachers would cost the TDSB approximately $10.5 million above and beyond the funding from the Ministry of Education.

Typically, these adjustments are made approximately two weeks into the school year. Because the start of the school year was delayed this September as a result of the pandemic – to September 15 (in-person) and September 22 (Virtual School) – we are at that two-week point into the resumption of classes when we are ready to reorganize our classrooms. While this is a routine process that happens every school year, the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the creation of the Virtual School has resulted in a need for more significant class adjustments and the distribution of teachers between in-person schools and the Virtual School.

Please see below for more important information about the reorganization process. Please note that the majority of our schools will not experience significant changes to teachers and classrooms. The breakdown below shows the impact of the reorganization on elementary school teaching staff:

  • 12 schools – Gain of 1 or 2 teachers
  • 136 schools – No change to teacher allocation
  • 161 schools - Loss of up to 1 teacher
  • 97 schools - Loss of 1.5 to 2.0 teachers
  • 36 schools - Loss of 2.5 to 3.0 teachers
  • 21 schools - Loss of 3.5 to 4.0 teachers
  • 9 schools - Loss of more than 4 teachers

If your child’s classroom will be impacted by reorganization, you will hear directly from your child’s school with specific information later this week.

Information for In-Person (In-School) Students

How will the reorganization impact in-person (in-school) students?

Some teachers will be moved to the Virtual School since we have more teachers at in-person schools than are needed due to the significant number of students (over 66,000) in Elementary Virtual School. A very small number of teachers may be moved to different in-person schools. At some schools, there are classes with very low numbers of students and more teaching staff than required. In these cases, classes will be reorganized to meet class size requirements. As a result, some students will be assigned to a different class or a different teacher. For example, two smaller classes may be combined to create one larger class that better meets targeted class size limits (see additional health and safety information below). In other cases, large classes may be split and students may be assigned to new teachers in order to balance class sizes in schools.

This year, to improve health in safety in schools during the pandemic, the TDSB used its reserve funds to hire more teachers so class sizes are lower than the Education Act/Collective Agreement requirements. However, with more students enrolled in our Virtual School and fewer students attending in-person than projected, changes must be made to ensure that teachers are allocated where students are attending. Please note:

  • Changes to class size will not exceed the TDSB’s original targeted class size limits so that health and safety standards relating to classroom size and social distancing can be maintained. The targeted class size limits are: JK/SK classes – 24 students, Grades 1 to 3 – 20 students, and Grades 4 to 8 – 27 students.
  • Schools in communities identified by Toronto Public Health as higher risk for contracting COVID-19 will have JK/SK classes with a targeted limit of 15 students and Grade 1 to 8 classes with a targeted limit of 20 students.

Will there be more split grade classes in schools?

As we balance the number of students and teachers in schools, we will make every effort to have single grade classes. However, parents should expect to see an increase in split classes as we deal with reorganization challenges this year, while ensuring we meet health and safety requirements of smaller class sizes. Split classes are common every year across the TDSB and our teachers have the experience and training to accommodate students of more than one grade level in a single classroom.

When will I know if my child will change classes and/or have a new teacher?

We anticipate that classroom reorganizations will be complete the week of Tuesday, October 13. You will be contacted directly later this week by your school if your child is affected by the reorganization.

What health and safety measures will be put in place to keep students and staff safe during this transition?

The reorganization will require some classes to change their cohorts (groups of students within schools). Other cohorts will change to accommodate students who have switched to in-person learning from the elementary Virtual School. The TDSB has consulted Toronto Public Health (TPH) on these changes and we are taking the following health and safety steps:

  • Schools will keep track of the specific details (impacted students, impacted teachers, specific dates, etc.) of all class cohort changes for the use of TPH to conduct efficient contact tracing, should there be a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the school.
  • Enhanced cleaning will occur prior to the classroom changes taking place.
  • Schools will continue to ensure mask/face coverings, physical distancing, handwashing/sanitizing and daily school and classroom cleaning.
  • Families of students switching from Virtual School to in-person schools will be provided with information about safety protocol expectations in place at our schools prior to their transfer.

Information for Elementary Virtual School Students

How will the reorganization impact elementary Virtual School students?

There are approximately 2,500 teachers in the elementary Virtual School. In response to increased enrolment in the Virtual School, and the importance of ensuring that there were enough teachers to begin class as soon as possible for students, the TDSB used over 800 occasional/temporary teachers to fill any gaps. As noted above, the number of permanent TDSB teachers assigned to our in-person schools exceeds requirements, based on enrolment. As a result of this reorganization, permanent teachers will be transferred to the Virtual School. Permanent teachers will replace approximately 25% of the occasional/temporary teachers in the Virtual School.

How and when will I find out if my child’s virtual classroom is impacted?

If your child’s virtual classroom teacher is changing, families will be notified by the Virtual School administration team. During the initial reorganization period, current occasional/temporary teachers will be teamed up with new permanent teachers to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible for students. New teachers coming to the Virtual School will undergo training before the transfer and we expect that new teachers will be in place and on our learning platform Brightspace by the week of October 13.

What if I still don’t have a Virtual School teacher?

While there has been a shortage of teachers in the Virtual School, especially in French Immersion/Extended French, we have been taking action to fill these positions on a daily basis. Before the reorganization is complete, we expect to have all students assigned a teacher. The reorganization of schools and classes will increase the availability of permanent TDSB teachers for the Virtual School and enhance stability.

Please see the TDSB website for additional questions and answers regarding elementary reorganization.

Your Continued Support and Understanding is Appreciated

Balancing the teacher-pupil ratio is absolutely necessary to ensure more equitable access to learning opportunities for all students. The TDSB is making every effort to better balance our schools with as little disruption to your child’s learning as possible. However, for some students this may mean being assigned to a new teacher, a different class or, in some cases, a mixed grade.

This year is like no other our board has dealt with previously. We are facing very challenging conditions because of the ongoing pandemic and due to students switching between in-person schools and the Virtual School. Board staff and your Principal are doing their best to deal with these unprecedented circumstances while looking after the best interests of students and staff, including continuing to maintain health and safety conditions in our schools. Please be assured that school staff and teachers will be there to support students and their families during the transition. You and your school-age children have shown both understanding and patience as we have begun the school year, and we are very appreciative. We know it has not been easy. We sincerely ask for your continued support and understanding as we make these changes over the next two weeks.