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Local school boards prepare for return to four-class semesters


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The two largest school boards in the region have confirmed a return to a regular four-course semester timetable next month.  

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The new semester for both the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board and the Greater Essex County District School Board starts Feb. 3.  

“It makes for a better day for our students and our staff,” said Josh Canty, the public board’s superintendent of education and student success.”  

The public board confirmed the move on social media Wednesday.   

Currently, both boards are operating under a modified semester system where students take two subject classes each day for one week and then switch to two different subject classes the following week.  

The modified timetable was a means to manage student cohorts and limit contacts in the fight against COVID-19.   

“We know that vaccination rates are going up, which is positive, and students and staff want to get a sense of normalcy,” Canty said. “And it’s time, it’s just time.”  

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The Ministry of Education announced last November that school boards would return to the traditional semester timetable no later than February. A few boards were able to switch earlier if they had the approval of local health officials based on positivity rates in their community.  

“It’s such great news for students and staff,” said Melissa Farrand, the Catholic board’s executive superintendent for student achievement. “It’s a positive change for our high school students and a return to normality for them.”

Under the modified semester system, parents and students across the province complained that a 150-minute class was too long and difficult to manage and retain.  

Canty agreed shorter classes work better. “A 150-minute math class can be a very, very long time for a Grade 9 student,” he said.  

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The Ontario Public School Boards Association hailed a return to the four-class timetable.  

“This return to a regular timetable for secondary students will improve student engagement and achievement, while allowing educators to create more effective teaching and learning environments,” OPSBA president Cathy Abraham said in a written statement when the ministry made its announcement.  

Canty noted a return to a four-period day will allow educators to have prep time each day, something that was not possible under the modified system.  

“We were wearing down our staff, especially in the weeks when they had two 150-minute classes. They were bringing work home at night,” he said. “This allows for a preparation period every day. We’re happy we can make the switch.”   

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Canty said the return also allows the board the flexibility to offer early morning music repertoire courses for the first time during this 2021-22 academic year.  

The Catholic board first posted plans for a regular semester in mid-December.  

“We have been in contact with our local medical officer of health and he has approved moving forward with this model,” Farrand said.   

Farrand noted the traditional four-class system makes for “a more engaging day for staff and students.”  

High school education has been in a state of flux since the pandemic struck in March 2020. Holiday breaks have been extended and students have been shuffled between online and in-person learning several times over the past 21 months.  

While not ideal, modified semesters were generally seen as an improvement from the quadmester system used for the 2020-21 year. That’s when the school year was divided into four quadrants. Students took two classes per shortened quad but the compressed content and sped-up pace proved to be unmanageable for many, especially when it had to be delivered online.  

As for extracurricular athletics, the Windsor Essex Secondary Schools Athletic Association has stated it hopes to resume high school sports on Feb. 7.

mcaton@postmedia.com

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