So here is my idealistic plan for elementary schools:
- Forget exact grades, for the moment (it’s always seemed weird to me to stick kids together just because they’re the same age), and cohort the heck out of siblings/close neighbours/groups of friends/kids with similar interests/or something. Figure out creative ways to make sensible, consistent small groups (don’t prescribe how this happens; there’ll be 10,000 different solutions). Figure out what makes the most sense for kids with IEPs/accommodations/risk factors first and then work from there.
- Make the school day 9-5 so we don’t add the risk of a separate daycare cohort.
- Forget being tied to school buildings. For a few groups, sure. For others: rent spaces in community centres, libraries, parks, theatre spaces, whatever. Heck, rent restaurants/bars — they have tables and chairs and washrooms and kitchens and often blackboards and TVs for displaying stuff streamed off the internet, and goodness knows they need $$ right now.
- Hire all the ECEs in the known universe, give them a couple weeks of intensive training on forest schools, and then give them all kids up to age 8 or so (keep the cutoff flexible for cohort reasons). Keep them outside as much and as long as possible. Supply kids who need it with all necessary winter gear.
- That frees up most of the primary-grade teachers to work with the older kids. Keep these groups outside as much / as long as possible too.
- Specialist instruction (French, music, etc.) probably comes to a bunch of the small groups at the same time via internet, so the kids are with their cohort and teacher and it’s all experienced together with teacher support (and crowd control) available in the room.
- Relax about the curriculum. Stuff will get learned, just maybe not quite the same stuff or maybe not in the same order. Fill in the gaps later, or fill them with something else because the bits you left out were busywork anyway. Whatever. It’ll work out if we trust teachers to teach.
Of course I haven’t dealt with how teachers in this scenario get bathroom breaks and lunch breaks and preps and things. Practically speaking you need at least a teacher + a classroom assistant for each group. The obvious thing to do to avoid increasing the size of the bubble would be to hire parents of the kids in the cohort, but that presents its own very large collection of issues. Another idea might be using grade 11&12 kids who are interested in education and giving them co-op course credits… which also presents its own very large collection of issues including some serious equity challenges.
I have no idea what to do about high schools.