Education Matters English

High schools, year divided into ‘quadmester’

The next school year in Ontario’s high schools will also be divided into ‘quadmester’. That’s what Toronto District School Board (TDSB) spokesman Ryan Bird said. “The Ministry of Education has ordered all school boards, including the TDSB, to follow a program that emphasizes as much as possible the division into groups of students, which translates into the “quadmester model” – Bird told CP24 – we know that it does not work for everyone and we are continuing to explore ways to improve the daily schedule taking into account the number of minutes needed and all that kind of things, but for now we are trying to follow the direction of the Ministry of Education while realizing that it is really unpredictable to know what fall will look like”.

The news about the “quadmester” study plan came in the wake of the ministry’s announcement that all providers will have to offer a distance learning option for the next school year, regardless of whether the pandemic has subsided enough to allow lessons to resume in classrooms.

Under the “four-month” model, first introduced this year, students take two courses at a time in four separate academic “quadmesters”: the model replaced a two-semester system in which students were usually enrolled in four classes at a time.

The proposed timetable for the year 2021-2022 in secondary schools includes the first four months from September to mid-November, a second from November to January, the third from February to mid-April and the last from April to June.

The Toronto public school board welcomed the provincial government’s directive. Bird said the decision to use the “four-month” model for the next school year makes sense, given the need to continue to limit contact between “student and student” as much as possible. In essence, it is a model of study dictated by the need to contain Covid infections but, noted the TDSB spokesperson, “if conditions improve and the need to reduce interaction decreases, the TDSB could reassess the decision before September.”

Also, despite the Ontario government’s hope to start administering the vaccine to 12- to 17-year-olds as early as next month, it’s unclear how many secondary school students will have been vaccinated by the fall. “We have to be flexible, since we don’t really know how the situation will evolve with vaccines – said Bird – I think it will be considerably better, but we are not sure, so we have to start with the “quadmester” model and then reorganize everything along the way if it is appropriate”.

Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) President Harvey Bischof said that “four-month services are not ideal” but that he appreciates the need for caution “right now.” “The most important thing would be that the state of the pandemic and safety measures in schools allow students to return to face-to-face learning which best serves the vast majority of them. It would be a great relief for educators who just want to do the best  they can for their students,” he said.

We asked the OSSTF and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) for comment on the government directive but received no reply.

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