Dear Neighbour, 

I hope you are keeping well. As September begins, there is a lot going on and back to school is top of mind for most people.

Return to school must be safe for all students.

Public health agencies (Toronto Public Health, Public Health Agency of Canada), education administrators (Ontario Principals’ Council, Ontario Public School Boards Association), public education experts (People for Education, OISE), education workers (Elementary Teachers Toronto, Ontario Secondary School Teachers, ECEs, school bus drivers), and of course students and parents across the province have all called for a properly funded #SafeSeptember plan.

A key part of the #SafeSeptember plan is smaller class sizes so that 2 metres of physical distancing is possible in classrooms. There are also important calls for more opportunities for outdoor learning, and critical school infrastructure upgrades such as infection-control grade ventilation which grassroots groups like Fix Our Schools has long been advocating for.

Unfortunately, so far the plan for the upcoming school year has been marked by confusion and a lack of leadership from the Ford government. Their unwillingness to properly fund a safe return to classrooms, and lack of collaboration with school boards and education workers has created a situation where students and parents are understandably worried.

TDSB Chair, Alexander Brown, wrote to the Minister of Education asking for further COVID-19 supports for a safe return to school. The Ford government has yet to allocate any additional provincial funding following the Board’s request.

I have heard from many parents who feel that choosing between in person and online learning is choosing between bad and worse. We know that the value of in-person learning for students is vast, however the provincial government hasn’t done enough to make sure it will be safe. Online learning isn’t even an option for many, as more folks head back to work or can’t afford the ongoing child care costs or do not have access to the proper technology.

I would like to underscore one very important point: choosing online learning does not reduce class sizes and provide more space for physical distancing to those attending in-person.  Class sizes will remain the same and teachers will be surplused to online classrooms if there are fewer in-person students than usual. That is why organizing for smaller class sizes and enhanced safety measures remains a priority, one which we should all be fighting for. You are able to switch your enrollment choice until the first day of school by contacting your home school principal.

My colleagues and I have called on Premier Ford to commit to posting a list online of all schools with COVID-19 cases, while maintaining the privacy of students and staff. We hope that COVID-19 doesn’t make its way into schools but in the event it does, we believe parents, students and staff including supply teachers.  The Ford government tried to downplay the growing tragedy in long-term care homes as the virus swept in. We can’t repeat the same mistakes with our children. Just as we successfully called for a list of long-term care homes with COVID-19 cases and outbreaks to be posted online, we hope the Premier Ford will act and do the same for schools.

Also, the House resumes next week on September 14, 2020 and I want to bring your voices directly to the legislature. Your feedback is valuable, please share your thoughts on the government’s Back to School plan by taking my Education Survey.

Below you can read the TDSB’s implementation of the current plans for Elementary and Secondary by clicking the links and also find other provincial updates.

As always, wash your hands, practise physical distancing, wear a mask when needed, be kind.


Bhutila Karpoche,
MPP for Parkdale—High Park

Provincial Pause on Reopening Measures

Yesterday, at the direction of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, the government indicated they will be taking a 4 week pause on the introduction of any further economic reopening measures. This means that no additional classifications of workplaces or institutions will be allowed to reopen beyond what has already been identified until at least October 6, 2020. This measure has been taken after a multi-day trend showing a rise of COVID-19 cases. Ontario reported 149 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, as of this morning.

New Long Term Care Policy for Caregivers

Changes to the visitor policy for long-term care homes will come into effect today, September 9. The policy is clarifying guidance about visits from caregivers, all of whom will now be allowed to visit homes. Each resident may designate a maximum of two caregivers that will be allowed to visit without time limits. If a home is in outbreak, or the resident is self-isolating, only one caregiver is allowed to visit at a time. More details are available here.

Bill 197 Challenge

With the passage of Bill 197 at the end of the last sitting of the House, the Ford government knowingly violated the law despite warnings by Ontario’s Auditor General and Official Opposition Environment Critic, Ian Arthur. The government is required by the Environmental Bill of Rights to consult the public for 30 days on any decision that impacts the environment, a process which ensures that Ontarians are notified when significant environmental decisions are made. Premier Ford ignored that process and rammed Bill 197 through with only the minimum required amount of debate in the House. Bill 197 introduces sweeping changes to environment assessment rules and expands the government’s authority to issue Ministerial Zoning Orders, both of which would drastically reduce the amount of environmental oversight in Ontario.

Now, two different groups are challenging Bill 197 in court, saying that it has violated the Environmental Bill of Rights by not being presented for public consultation and that its environmental aspects go against international law conventions. The first challenge is being led by a group representing 133 First Nations, with the second challenge filed by The Canadian Environmental Law Association, Ontario Nature, Earthroots, a 16-year-old environmental activist, Cooper Price, and Michel Koostachin of Attawapiskat.

Ontario’s First Poet Laureate

This June, the Honourable Ted Arnott announced the launch of nominations for Ontario’s first Poet Laureate.

Introduced by Windsor—Tecumseh MPP Percy Hatfield, the Poet Laureate of Ontario Act (In Memory of Gord Downie) was passed unanimously in the Legislature in December 2019. It honours the late former lead singer of popular Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip, whose poetic lyrics touched the hearts of Canadians from coast to coast. A native of Kingston, Ontario, Downie passed away in October 2017. 

Applications for the position are being accepted through September 15th, 2020. Following the acceptance of nominations, a selection panel will prepare a short list of the nominees by December and announce a chosen nominee by February, 2021. You can find more information about the nomination process here

Upon appointment by the Legislature, the Poet Laureate will report to the Speaker as an officer of the Assembly for a two-year term. Responsibilities will include writing poetry, promoting art and literacy in the province, celebrating Ontario and its people and raising the profile of Ontario poets.
Other provincial updates
  • All orders currently in force under the Reopening Ontario Act, 2020 have been extended to September 22, 2020, with the expectation of those related to the Education Sector and Limitation Periods which terminate on August 31 and September 14 respectively.

  • The Ontario government is providing $3.8M to support hearing checks for infants who did not receive the universal hearing screening due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Community agencies who provide the Infant Hearing Pro have started to resume the newborn hearing screening. 

  • All full-time DriveTest centres will be returning to regular operations, including the resumption of first come, first served G1 and M1 knowledge tests, driver’s license exchanges, and by-appointment road tests. 

  • Under O. Reg 380/04 of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, municipalities and provincial ministries are required to conduct exercises every year to test and practice their emergency plans. To allow local emergency management authorities to focus on the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ontario government will be waiving the requirement for this year’s annual mock emergency exercises. 

Loaves and Fishes Food Bank

As the cost of living in our city continues to increase and wages remain stagnant, more and more are finding themselves having to choose between paying for rent or putting food on the table.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made this problem worse.

An incredible team of people have come together to form Loaves and Fishes, a temporary food bank running out of St. Pius X Church to support neighbours during COVID-19 with the support of the Daily Bread Food Bank and Neighbours Helping Neighbours West End. I joined them to learn more about their work and to share a box my family and I put together.

Let me be clear, no one should have to rely on a food bank. All levels of government must implement measures that address the root causes of food insecurity— increased wages, affordable housing, basic income etc. While we fight for that, I am grateful for constituents who do what they can to support one another.

New clients can register online in advance or simply walk-in to access food bank services.
TDSB Back to School: Elementary & Secondary Plans

Information for Elementary Students 

In-Person Elementary (K-8)

  • Attend school five full days per week
  • Receive 300 minutes of instruction per day within a regular school day
  • Be in a class with the students cohorted as a group (including recess and lunch) with their classmates and homeroom teacher (including one DECE in kindergarten)
  • Receive the full breadth of programming from their homeroom teacher and specialized teachers (e.g. Core French teachers)
  • Likely experience changes in the timing of recesses, lunches, and bathroom breaks as they are staggered to limit or avoid interaction with other class groups
  • Practice health and safety measures, including physical distancing where possible, hand and respiratory hygiene and screening for symptoms. Additionally, all students will be required to wear masks, with exemptions for medical reasons. Regular outdoor breaks will help support students who may need time away from their mask.
  • Class Sizes: JK/SK classes are capped at 24, Grades 1 to 3 are capped at 20, Grades 4 to 8 are capped at 27.
  • At select schools, identified by Toronto Public Health and the TDSB as having higher risk for contracting COVID-19, smaller class sizes have been implemented: JK/SK classes capped at 15 and Grades 1 to 8 classes capped at 20. These class sizes only apply to Queen Victoria PS in Parkdale—High Park. 

Virtual Elementary (K-8)

  • Students will be assigned to an online Homeroom with a Homeroom Teacher who will also be online.
  • Daily attendance will be taken.
  • Students will have 300 minutes of learning opportunities (synchronous and asynchronous) each day.
    • Kindergarten students will receive a minimum of 180 minutes of daily synchronous learning
    • Grades 1-8 students will receive a minimum of 225 minutes of daily synchronous learning
  • Large Group Instruction will be scheduled for 40-50% of the day, depending on grade level.
  • Guided instruction (small group), synchronous (live), “Check & Connect” (small group or individual) will also be part of the learning process.
  • Independent work will be made available in Brightspace.
  • The online Homeroom Teacher, DECE for Kindergarten where applicable, and prep subject teachers will deliver the grade-appropriate Ontario curriculum.
Switching Between Virtual and In-Person
There will only be three opportunities to switch between in-person and virtual learning for Elementary students once the school year has begun
  • One Month Into School Year
    • Date the Change Would Take Effect: October 13, 2020
    • Deadline to Request Change: September 30, 2020
  • Following the Progress Reporting Period
    • Date the Change Would Take Effect: November 23, 2020
    • Deadline to Request Change: November 6, 2020
  • Following First Provincial Report Card
    • Date the Change Would Take Effect: February 26, 2021
    • Deadline to Request Change: January 29, 2021

Information for Secondary Students

In-Person Secondary (9-12)

Secondary students in the in-school model will be in school with their teacher every other day and will have live video conferencing (synchronous learning) with their teacher daily. Class sizes will be approximately 15 students. 

Virtual Secondary (9-12)

The TDSB Secondary Virtual School will be fully online and staffed by TDSB teachers, a principal, vice-principals, guidance counsellors and support staff. Students will maintain a connection with the school that retains their school records, referred to as their home school. Students will be taking part in synchronous (live/online) learning and asynchronous (independent work) learning throughout the day. 

Class sizes in the Secondary Virtual School will be the same as those in the normal in-person model. Class size in secondary schools is determined by the type of course. For example: Academic - target of 30 students, Applied - target of 23 students, University - target of 31 students, College - target of 26 students, University/College - target of 31 students.

Switching Between Virtual and In-Person

For Secondary students, opportunities to switch between in-person and virtual learning exist only between quadmesters: 

  • Deadline to Switch for Quad 2: October 15, 2020
  • Deadline to Switch for Quad 3: January 5, 2021

  • Deadline to Switch for Quad 4: March 23, 2021

(Above information sourced from

Reminder: For the most up-to-date information please visit Toronto Public Health, Ontario Ministry of Health, and the Public Health Agency of Canada. Contact information is available on my website here.
Community Office
While our office is closed to the public as part of our efforts to manage the COVID-19 virus, we will continue to provide services for constituents via phone and email. Thank you for your patience and flexibility during this time. 

Phone: 416-763-5630
Copyright © 2020 MPP for Parkdale—High Park, All rights reserved.

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