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Background on Secondary School In Person Learning Model

Background on Secondary School In Person Learning Model
Posted on 08/12/2020
Background on Secondary School In Person Learning Model

On July 30th, the Ontario Ministry of Education announced that it was not yet safe for our secondary schools to return to conventional learning and the OCDSB and some other districts would open using an Adaptive Model. 

The Ministry “Guide to Reopening Ontario’s School” indicated that:

  • School should emphasize cohorting as much as possible
  • Limit indirect and direct student contacts to approximately 100
  • Limit secondary students to a maximum of two in-person cohorts as much as possible

The Ministry Guide specifically identified that secondary schools should consider a model in which the school day is shortened and also promoted the “quadmester” model.  The Guide describes quadmestering as students taking no more than two courses at a time in which they take one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. The Guide also encourages a synchronous period of learning each school day for all the students in the class.

This was different from what had been under consideration by OCDSB staff. Prior to the release of the Guide, the District and the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) had been working towards a model that would see students in semestered schools for two in person classes a day, with limited transition time between classes and no common lunch/nutrition break. As such, the instructional day in this model would have been shortened for both safety reasons and to ensure compliance with collective agreements. 

Following the release of the Guide and after receiving feedback and information from the Ministry and other districts implementing the adapted model, it became clear by August 5th that such a model would not be acceptable. 

Staff from the OCDSB and OCSB worked together to examine models planned in many other districts which had been discussed with the Ministry. Working collaboratively with principals, federations and key district staff, the OCDSB and OCSB jointly determined that this approach was the best balance between meeting the needs of students and complying with the expectations of the Ministry and public health.

Benefits of OCDSB Secondary Adaptive Model

The benefits of the OCDSB secondary adaptive model are that:

  • It provides for more scheduled teacher contact time than any other approach we considered - 225 minutes of direct instruction a day (150 minutes in person and 75 minutes synchronous remote) plus an additional 75 minutes of available teacher support for students;
  • It offers more regular structure to the 2:3:3:2 model and allows every student to have a daily synchronous learning class of 75 minutes with all classmates whether they are at home or in person;
  • It more easily accommodates keeping those students who opt for fully remote learning on class lists in their home schools and in contact with their teachers;
  • It reduces students contact, by allowing for student learning in two cohorts, and keeps student direct and indirect contact through the day within the 100 limit;
  • It increases safety by removing the need for students to transition between classes, have lunch at school, and share a learning space on a daily basis with students from another cohort;
  • It more clearly respects the requirements of current collective agreements by capping assigned instructional time to 225 minutes per day per full time teacher; 
  • It schedules a routine live teacher contact in the afternoon of each day in which attendance will be taken and reported; 
  • It allows for a consistent length of day between OCDSB and OCSB to maximize transportation; and
  • For non-semestered schools, necessary adjustments will be made based on the same principles.

When responding to the many questions we have received since launching the Return to School plan, we realized that the description of the secondary plan was not clear enough in terms of the second period course being offered online. We clarified the language and developed a sample schedule and added that to the FAQ Return to School page. We also developed a sample letter explaining the model and the schedule for secondary school principals to send to families. That information has or will be sent home by principals today. 

Important questions have been raised about the implications of this model on student learning, transportation, time in school, transitions, and student well-being. These are all important issues and staff worked through the same questions. A major limitation in the original approach was that it would not have been possible to assign teachers to a synchronous instructional period in the afternoon. After considering all of these issues, we, like most other districts using the adaptive model, concluded that the benefits of this approach outweighed the limitations.

Throughout this process, we have been working collaboratively with the three coterminus school districts and Ottawa Public Health in developing our return to school plans. In particular, we have worked very closely with OCSB to align our planning in order to provide a consistent learning experience between the two English language school districts and to ensure that OSTA would be able to plan and deliver effective transportation to all students requiring it. To this end, alignment of our school days is particularly important.

How will an In Person secondary school day look like?

The In Person secondary school day will look different. Here is a breakdown of how it works.

  • Quadmester model - The school year will start using a quadmester model; students will take period one and three from September to Mid-November and periods two and four from mid-November to end of January.
  • Two courses/day - Students will have two courses a day instead of the traditional four courses for a total of approximately 5 hours of instruction/classwork each day. 
  • Cohorts A and B – Each course will be divided into two cohorts (A and B) with approximately 15 students per cohort.  This will help to reduce the total number of student contacts. Information about student assignments to Cohort A or Cohort B will be shared once we know more about the number of students attending in person.
  • 2:3:3:2 Adapted Model - Students in Cohort A will attend school every Monday and Tuesday, and alternating Wednesdays (one week they attend Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and the next week they attend Monday and Tuesday). Students in Cohort B will attend school every Thursday and Friday for in-person classes, and alternating Wednesdays (one week they attend Thursday and Friday, and the next week they attend Wednesday, Thursday and Friday).
  • In person and synchronous online delivery - The first course of the day will be approximately 150 minutes and will be done in person and then students will do the second period of the day online through synchronous learning for approximately 75 minutes). Attendance is taken both in-person and online. Parents will be contacted if a student misses either instruction.

Here’s a sample schedule. (Please note that this will look different in IB sites.)

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