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Welcome back to school — now put your mask on and use the hand sanitizer

Welcome back to school — now put your mask on and use the hand sanitizer
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On the first day of classes , 69 students were expected to show up at Hunter’s Glen Junior Public School in Scarborough.

By the end of this week, about 250 will be back, with the rest of the students — about 180 of them — choosing to learn from home.

Strips of red tape marked spots on the pavement Tuesday morning at the school, near Midland Ave. and Lawrence Ave. E., so the children would know how far apart to stand as they waited for the bell. They were given squirts of hand sanitizer before heading into class and during the first announcements of the school year, their principal reminded them about good hand hygiene and keeping their masks on.

For now, the library is off limits in Toronto public schools. Gyms and cafeterias are now classrooms, and students will be spending as much time as possible learning outdoors.

For the Toronto District School Board — and the 71 other school boards across the province — returning to school is not a return to normal.

“There will be a lot of differences and adjustments,” said TDSB interim director of education Carlene Jackson, who was at Hunter’s Glen to greet parents and students as they arrived.

For teachers — many of whom only learned of their classroom assignments at the last minute — start-up “will be a challenge for the most part,” but Jackson said she is confident they will “rise to the occasion.”

However, she noted, everyone has to realize “things are not going to be perfect. We’re going to need to adjust as we go along. There’s a lot of learning we are still doing, so there’s going to need to be patience.”

As for the main concern of parents — class sizes — she said the board is working to make sure they are as small as possible.

“In an ideal world, all of our classes would be the 12 to 15 that Sick Kids and everyone else has been recommending,” Jackson said, “but that’s not possible with our current resources.”

She said any larger classes should be temporary as the “board is taking action as soon as possible to reduce class sizes” as families now have to give a firm answer on whether their children will attend in person.

Jackson said the board anticipated a 70-30 split of students attending school to those learning at home, but “at some schools, we are not seeing that split. We do need to look at those situations and make sure we put in extra resources to lower class sizes.”

Hunter’s Glen principal Aldo Petrucci said he has lost 5.5 teaching positions this year because of the drop in in-person enrolment. Kindergarten classes are about 24 students or fewer, Grades 1 to 3 have up to 20 students and from Grades 4 to 8, classes can go up to 27.

In the schoolyard, four large white circles have been painted so that classes can be outside and remain far apart. The school already had an outdoor chalkboard with wooden benches.

Jeremy Jamieson and his son Travis 11, arrived early Tuesday and said they were a little nervous but glad that he is going back to class.
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