Numbers of students physically returning to Dr Hawkins and Port Hope High School School unknown

Article by Valerie MacDonald

This is the second in a three-part series of stories looking at changes coming to rural and urban schools – both elementary and high school – due to the pandemic. In this article, attendance at Port Hope High School and Dr. Hawkins in Port Hope, teacher union reactions and the staggered start to the school year by the Catholic school board are examined.

The number of grade 7 to grade 12 students who will actually attend Port Hope High School and Dr. Hawkins senior elementary school that share the same physical premises, versus those that will stay home and do online learning is changing daily, principal of both schools, Ron MacDonald told the News Now Network. The schools he is responsible for are part of the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board.

It’s been a longer than usual school break this year because of COVID-19 when physical attendance in classes stopped before the March break. When students return next week, information about numbers will be provided to parents.

Last year about 250 attended Port Hope High School and 220 Dr. Hawkins. Final figures are not available for the number of students who will take the bus to school versus those that stay at home to do online learning.

Last year, about 40% to 50% of students at the two schools were bussed the principal said, adding he has no idea at this time if that is the same or not.

When students arrive next week there will be instructions about where hand sanitizing stations are located as well as instructions about mask and hand-washing protocols, he said.

Asked if there will be a two-metre social distancing protocol in place for classroom seating, the principal claimed that will be the direction wherever possible.

This is a bone of contention for some parents and school staff throughout Ontario.

Earlier this month the teacher unions – the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation – called for lower elementary class sizes and asked that the Labour Ministry “order standards which mandate 15 to 20 students per class, to ensure a two-metre distance can be maintained between pupils,” according to a published report.

This is necessary to protect not only staff in schools but the students, the unions stated.

They also called for busing standards to better protect against COVID-19 transmission. To date, there has been no change in provincial directions on social distancing in classes or on busses.

A well-known local, former Liberal Party staffer posted this comment on social media about the social distancing issue and it garnered supportive comments: My daughter will be teaching in a class that has no room to social distance and the students are not required to wear masks. Retail store and restaurant employees have more protection than these children and teachers. Doug Ford stands in front of us every day, six-feet apart from his co-workers…HE NEEDS TO STEP UP TO PROTECT OUR CHILDREN AND TEACHING.”

Like the public school board, the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic (PVNC) District School Board is also having a staggered start but it has set out a schedule that begins two days earlier. It has 30 elementary and six secondary schools covering a 10,300-square-foot jurisdiction that includes this County.

A media release provides this information about staggered starts.



 All students at PVNC schools will begin full attendance on Wednesday, Sept. 16.

The KPR board will not have all its students in place until two days later.

The PVNC release also states that the board knows “that for some families, a staggered start creates challenges, but we do feel a gradual start to the year will benefit our staff and students greatly.”

As plans are made for the restart of school next week – despite concerns about safety and the educational teaching environment – Ontario Premier Doug Ford is holding the line on social distancing protocols. But he has also said he, “won’t hesitate” to close schools again should the province be hit with a strong second wave of COVID-19.

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