A quiet first day of school as Durham kids among first in GTA to return to class

To say the beginning of the first day of school at Seneca Trail Public School in north Oshawa was subdued would be an understatement.

In fact it was hard to believe there was any school at all.

Staggered starts in the Durham District School Board mean that only students with last names beginning with A through G are required to attend in-person classes today. And with many parents opting to go the online learning route, it’s no wonder the place was quiet.

The Star estimates there were a few dozen parents and students who arrived this morning at Seneca Trail, a public school that normally has more than 500 students enrolled.

“We’re just going to play it day by day. That’s all you can do,” said Lori DaSilva-Lacelle, a parent with two boys at the school, adding that she has a lot of confidence her children’s teachers. “They’re really good teachers. Well just take it day by day and pray.”

Parent Jennifer Lorenzin, who has a child in Grade 1, said that as long as protective measures for COVID-19 are in place, she’s not too worried. She noted that all the students seemed to follow the white markings on the ground meant to ensure physical distancing.

“I would say for the littler ones I’d be worried, like kindergarten and preschool, but in Grade 1 they seem like they know what to do, to stay apart and not get so close. I’m not concerned now,” she said.

“I’m cautious but not fearful. I feel like everyone’s doing everything they possibly can…we’ve got to try,” said Jennifer Goodger, who has a daughter going into Grade 2 at Seneca Trail.

The Durham District School Board is among the first boards in the GTA to welcome students back to class since the province ordered schools closed in March. The Peel District School Board is also beginning in-person orientations at high schools today, ahead of a full return next week.

Because parents and caregivers still have a lot of questions about the new normal in schools, here are some Toronto Star stories addressing key concerns.

Kris Rushowy answers your back-to-school questions

How safe is it to return to the classroom in the age of COVID-19? The Star asked experts for science-based perspective

It’s a question that has been on the minds of thousands of Ontario parents, students and teachers for some time now: just how safe is it to return to the classroom in the age of COVID-19?

Masks? In school-testing? Busing? This Star database answers all your questions about how 10 school boards are handling the essentials

With the school year about to begin, we took a look at the plans of the 10 GTA boards to make schools safe for kids, from cleaning to way-finding and everything else in between.

Classrooms will look very different from what students are used to. Here is a visual guide

Screening, sanitizing, and sitting apart is the new reality.

150 Toronto schools were over-capacity before the COVID-19 shutdown. Now some are scrambling to find space for students

Leading up to GTA schools reopening, the school boards in the City of Toronto are grappling with a significant logistical challenge that could impact dozens of elementary schools — and possibly hundreds of families — throughout the year: the need for more space.

Once the students are in class, ventilation has been a key point of concern

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Parents, teachers and advocates worry poor ventilation, especially at older schools, will pose an extra risk to students. Education Minister Stephen Lecce’s promise of $ 50 million for ventilation has done little to allay those fears.

Not everyone is heading back to school at the same time. School boards have a staggered return to class

Here is a rundown of start dates for GTA boards this fall.

For those students learning from home, school boards are also racing to accommodate

Boards are racing to make sure kids staying home this fall have access to the computers and internet they need for remote learning. But big gaps remain, say some advocates, as the pandemic puts a spotlight on the digital divide in the GTA.

Kenyon Wallace

TORONTO STAR