Transcript: Ontario Schools Wrap Up a Tough Year | Jun 25, 2020

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, pale pink shirt, and spotted purple tie.

A caption on screen reads "Ontario Schools wrap up a tough year." @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says CHILDREN THE PROVINCE OVER LONG FOR AND CELEBRATE IT: THE LAST DAY OF SCHOOL. ONLY THIS YEAR IS UNLIKE ANY OTHER, SINCE THEY HAVEN'T BEEN IN THEIR SCHOOLS FOR MONTHS. AND WHAT EXACTLY THE KIDS WILL COME BACK TO ALSO REMAINS A BIT OF A MYSTERY. CAROLINE ALPHONSO COVERS EDUCATION FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL, AND SHE JOINS US NOW FROM THE DANFORTH IN THE CAPITAL CITY FOR AN UPDATE ON THAT, AND THE LATEST ON ANTI-BLACK RACISM AND THE PEEL DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD...

Caroline is in her thirties, with shoulder-length wavy brown hair. She's wearing a gray blazer and a black blouse.

Steve continues WHY DON'T WE START THERE, CAROLINE, AS WE WELCOME YOU BECOME TO THE PROGRAMME. THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT HAS APPOINTED A SUPERVISOR TO TAKE OVER THE PEEL DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD. BECAUSE US UP TO DATE ON WHY THAT IS.

The caption changes to "Caroline Alphonso. The Globe and Mail. @calphonso."

Caroline says WELL, TO BE QUITE SHORT ABOUT IT, WHAT THE SUPERVISOR IS IN THERE FOR IS BECAUSE THE PEEL BOARD FAILED TO ADDRESS ISSUES OF ITS DYSFUNCTION AND ISSUES OF ANTI-BLACK RACISM. PARENTS, COMMUNITY MEMBERS, STUDENTS HAVE BEEN DEMANDING FOR MONTHS, THEY HAVE BEEN IN THAT BOARDROOM DEMANDING FROM TRUSTEES THAT THEY TAKE ACTION ABOUT RACISM IN SCHOOLS, BUT THERE HAS BEEN SOME INFIGHTING AMONG TRUSTEES, THERE HAS BEEN INFIGHTING AMONG SENIOR STAFF. IN FACT, THE ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF EQUITY AT THE PEEL BOARD FILED A HUMAN RIGHTS COMPLAINT AGAINST THE DIRECTOR AND THE BOARD, WITH ALLEGATIONS OF DISCRIMINATION. SO THE GOVERNMENT ORDERED A REVIEW OF THE BOARD. THE MINISTER SET FORTH A NUMBER OF DIRECTIVES INCLUDING, YOU KNOW, PUTTING TOGETHER A POLICY ON ANTI-RACISM WITH COMMUNITY MEMBERS. DYSFUNCTION CONTINUED. INFIGHTING CONTINUED. AND SO THE MINISTER PUT IN AN INVESTIGATOR TO LOOK INTO THIS, AND THE INVESTIGATOR FOUND THAT THE BOARDS HAVE NOT HAD THE WILL OR THE MEANS TO CARRY OUT THESE ACTIONS. THE MINISTER ONCE AGAIN GAVE THEM A DEADLINE. THE BOARD VOTED FOR A SUPERVISOR. AND THIS WEEK THE MINISTER PUT IN PLACE BRUCE RODRIGUEZ, WHO IS A FORMER DEPUTY MINISTER, THE FORMER DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION FOR THE TORONTO CATHOLIC BOARD, HE'S ALSO BEEN PART OF THE REVIEW FOR ST. MIKE'S' COLLEGE, AND SO HE'S BEEN PUT IN PLACE THIS WEEK. HE HAS NOW TAKEN OVER THE BOARD.

Steve says SCHOOL BOARDS ARE THEORETICALLY AN INDEPENDENT LEVEL OF GOVERNMENT. IN FACT I THINK THEY'RE THE OLDEST LEVEL OF GOVERNMENT IN THE HISTORY OF THE COUNTRY, THEY PRE-DATE THE COUNTRY. SO I HAVE TO ASK HOW COMMON OR NOT IT IS FOR THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT TO ACTUALLY INSTALL SOMEBODY TO TAKE OVER A BOARD IN THIS WAY.

Caroline says YOU KNOW, STEVE, IT'S QUITE RARE THAT IT'S DONE, ESPECIALLY FOR AN ISSUE LIKE THIS, YOU KNOW, AN ISSUE AROUND EQUITY. I REMEMBER WHEN I... IN THE EARLY 2000s, ALSO A PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVE GOVERNMENT TOOK OVER THREE BOARDS, HAMILTON, OTTAWA, AND TORONTO WERE THE THREE BOARDS AND TORONTO REFUSED TO BALANCE ITS BOOKS BECAUSE OF A FLAWED FUNDING FORMULA. AND SO PAUL CHRISTIE WAS BROUGHT IN AT THE TIME. I REMEMBER WRITING ABOUT THAT. SO IT'S MORE ABOUT BALANCING BUDGETS. IT'S QUITE RARE... I DON'T KNOW IF I'VE HEARD A BOARD BEING TAKEN OVER BECAUSE OF EQUITY ISSUES AND THE DYSFUNCTION AROUND THAT.

Steve says CAROLINE, DO THESE THINGS TEND TO END WELL OR NOT?

Caroline says WELL, IT DEPENDS WHO YOU ASK, STEVE. RIGHT NOW ALREADY BRUCE RODRIGUEZ CAME IN THIS WEEK. THE NEXT DAY THE DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION WAS REMOVED FROM THE BOARD. SO PETER JOSHUA IS NO LONGER THERE. BRUCE HAS A TASK. HE HAS A TASK TO PUT THIS BOARD BACK ON TRACK. HE HAS A TASK TO SORT OF LISTEN TO COMMUNITY MEMBERS AND REWRITE SOME OF THE POLICIES AND SOME OF THE PRACTICES THAT ARE HAPPENING AT THE BOARD. DOES IT END WELL? WELL, NOBODY WANTS TO BE TAKEN OVER. ELECTED TRUSTEES LOSE THEIR POWER. BUT THIS BOARD WAS FAILING TO LIVE UP TO ITS TASKS, AND SOMETHING... AND PARENTS AND COMMUNITY MEMBERS AND STUDENTS WERE REQUESTING THAT, AND NOW WE'LL SEE WHAT THE ROAD AHEAD LIES FOR THIS BOARD.

Steve says ALL RIGHT. LET'S OPEN OUR LENS A LITTLE BIT WIDER. THAT'S THE STORY IN THE PEEL DISTRICT. I WANT TO TALK ABOUT THE WHOLE PROVINCE RIGHT NOW BECAUSE OF COURSE THIS WEEK THE MINISTER OF EDUCATION LAID OUT ESSENTIALLY A THREE-PRONG PATH FORWARD FOR SCHOOL BOARDS AS THEY START TO THINK ABOUT REOPENING IN THE FALL. WHAT ARE THOSE THREE OPTIONS THAT HE LOOKED AT?

Caroline says SO THE THREE SCENARIOS FOR THE FALL ARE A CONTINUATION OF REMOTE LEARNING. THE SECOND OPTION IS KIDS RETURN TO SCHOOL UNDER A NEW NORMAL WITH INCREASED PUBLIC HEALTH MEASURES. AND THE THIRD IS A HYBRID MODEL. A HYBRID MODEL THAT BLENDS IN-CLASS INSTRUCTION WITH REMOTE LEARNING. AND THE MINISTER HAS TASKED SCHOOL BOARDS TO SORT OF COME UP WITH SORT OF HOW THEY WOULD RUN THIS HYBRID MODEL. IT COULD BE ALTERNATE DAYS FOR STUDENTS. IT COULD BE ALTERNATE WEEKS. SO WE WON'T KNOW, ACCORDING TO THE GOVERNMENT, UNTIL AUGUST WHICH MODEL WE'RE GOING INTO COME THE FALL. THESE SCENARIOS ARE SIMILAR TO WHAT SOME OTHER PROVINCES HAVE DONE. ALBERTA HAS TAKEN A SIMILAR TACK WITH RETURN TO SCHOOL.

Steve says DO THE SCHOOL BOARDS HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO MAKE INDEPENDENT DECISIONS, OR DO WE HAVE A FEELING THAT THE PROVINCE IS GOING TO PUT ITS THUMB ON THE SCALE ONE WAY OR ANOTHER HERE?

Caroline says WELL, THE PROVINCE HAS SAID... THE MINISTER HAS SAID HE'S TELLING SCHOOL BOARDS TO COME UP WITH HOW THEY WOULD RUN THESE MODELS. BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY THE MINISTER DID SAY THAT, LIKE HOW THE PROVINCE HAS OPENED UP REGIONALLY, SCHOOLS AND SCHOOL BOARDS COULD ALSO TAKE A REGIONAL APPROACH TO HOW THE FALL LOOKS. SO I THINK AT THE END OF THE DAY THE MINISTER HAS SAID THAT HE WOULD LIKE A HYBRID MODEL IN PLACE FOR THE START OF THE YEAR, DEPENDING ON WHERE WE ARE WITH THE NUMBER OF CASES, WHERE WE ARE WITH THE SECOND WAVE AND WHEN THAT'S COMING ABOUT. BUT I THINK THERE WILL BE A MOVE TO TRY A HYBRID MODEL ACROSS THE PROVINCE, BUT IT COULD TAKE A REGIONAL APPROACH DEPENDING ON WHAT THE CASES LOOK LIKE.

Steve says NOW, I KNOW YOU'RE A REPORTER AND YOU DON'T LIKE TO EDITORIALIZE ABOUT THESE THINGS SO I'M GOING TO BE CAREFUL HOW I ASK THIS NEXT QUESTION. BUT THE REALITY IS, LET'S TAKE THE TORONTO DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD, FOR EXAMPLE. TORONTO IS AN ENORMOUS AREA. THERE MAY BE PARTS OF TORONTO WHERE THERE IS NO COVID AT ALL. THERE MAY BE PARTS OF TORONTO WHERE COVID IS A SIGNIFICANT PROBLEM. DO YOU THINK IT MAKES SENSE TO HAVE ONE POLICY BOARD-WIDE AS OPPOSED TO A BOARD HAVING THE ABILITY TO BREAK IT DOWN ALMOST NEIGHBORHOOD BY NEIGHBORHOOD OR SCHOOL BY SCHOOL?

Caroline says I THINK PARENTS WOULD BE UP IN ARMS, STEVE, IF SCHOOLS IN THE WEST END OPENED AND SCHOOLS IN THE EAST END... WE HAVE TO JUGGLE OUR KIDS AT HOME WHILE MANY OF US ARE WORKING FULL TIME AT HOME. I THINK, YOU KNOW, THERE'S A LOT TO CONSIDER ON HOW CURRICULUM WOULD RUN IF YOU HAVE SORT OF WITHIN A BOARD SCHOOLS OPENING IN SOME POCKETS AND NOT IN OTHERS. I THINK IT WOULD BE QUITE DIFFICULT TO MANAGE, ESPECIALLY LIKE IF YOU CONSIDER TEACHERS DON'T LIVE NECESSARILY IN THEIR NEIGHBOURHOODS, AND THEY HAVE CHILDREN AS WELL. SO THOSE TEACHERS, YOU CAN'T SAY IN THE WEST END YOUR KID IS GOING TO SCHOOL IF YOU'RE A TEACHER OR YOUR KID IS NOT GOING TO SCHOOL IN THE WEST END AND IN THE EAST END YOUR KID... YOU ARE GOING TO SCHOOL. HOW DOES THAT WORK WITH JUGGLING CHILD CARE, FOR EXAMPLE?

Steve says WELL, GOOD POINT. AND I GUESS JUST QUICKLY AND FINALLY ON THAT ISSUE ALONE: HOW ARE THEY GOING TO DO THIS? LET'S SAY, FOR EXAMPLE, THERE'S A HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 30 AND YOU'RE ONLY ALLOWED 15 OF THEM IN SCHOOL ON ONE DAY, WHICH MEANS 15 AREN'T IN SCHOOL. WHAT DO PARENTS WHO HAVE TO... LET'S SAY THEY BOTH WORK OUTSIDE THE HOME. WHAT DO THEY DO ABOUT CHILD CARE ON THE DAYS WHEN 15 OF THE KIDS ARE OUT OF HOME? HAS ANYBODY FIGURED ALL THIS STUFF OUT?

Caroline says FOR HIGH SCHOOL IT WOULD BE A LITTLE DIFFERENT...

Steve says HIGH SCHOOL NOT A PROBLEM. BUT MAYBE ELEMENTARY.

Caroline says ELEMENTARY. I'VE BEEN SPEAKING WITH SOME BOARDS THIS WEEK IN FACT ON HOW THEY WOULD DO THAT. WHAT WOULD HAPPEN ON THE DAYS THAT KIDS, YOU KNOW, WHO ARE IN GRADES 3 AND YOUNGER, WHO ARE NOT IN SCHOOL, AND THEY'RE STILL FIGURING THAT OUT. BECAUSE AT THE END OF THE DAY ALL THOSE SCHOOL CLASSROOMS WOULD BE USED FOR 15 KIDS. BUT YOU CAN'T PUT A BEFORE AND AFTER-CARE PROGRAMME TO BECOME A CHILD CARE PROGRAMME IN THOSE BUILDINGS. AND THERE'S SO MANY QUESTIONS RIGHT NOW, AND I THINK RIGHT NOW SCHOOL BOARDS IN THIS PROVINCE ARE TRYING TO DETERMINE WHAT DAY CARE, WHAT CHILD CARE IS GOING TO LOOK LIKE IN THE SUMMER MONTHS. YOU KNOW, CHILD CARE IS OPENING UP IN MANY PARTS OF THE PROVINCE IN THE NEXT COUPLE WEEKS, WHAT THAT'S GOING TO LOOK LIKE BEFORE THEY PROCEED TO WHAT SCHOOL WILL LOOK LIKE. THEY HAVE ONE TASK THAT'S SHORT TERM BEFORE THEY GO INTO THE LONG TERM WHAT SCHOOL WILL LOOK LIKE.

Steve says GOTCHA. IN OUR LAST MINUTE HERE, WE HAD A NEW MATH CURRICULUM ANNOUNCED THIS WEEK AS WELL. CAN YOU GIVE THE HIGHLIGHTS OF WHAT THAT LOOKS LIKE GOING FORWARD?

Caroline says THE MINISTER HAD SAID LAST YEAR AROUND THIS TIME, OR AT LEAST IN AUGUST, THAT THERE WOULD BE A NEW ELEMENTARY SCHOOL MATH CURRICULUM ROLLED OUT FOR ELEMENTARY KIDS THIS SEPTEMBER. YOU KNOW, LOTS OF CHANGE. SOME HAS STAYED THE SAME. CODING, FOR EXAMPLE, IS GOING TO BE IN THE CURRICULUM STARTING IN GRADE ONE. KIDS IN GRADE ONE ARE GOING TO LEARN HOW TO CODE. FINANCIAL LITERACY IS GOING TO BE RIGHT THROUGH THE CURRICULUM. THEY'RE GOING TO BE MEMORIZING THE MULTIPLICATION TABLES WHICH THE PREMIER AND THE MINISTER HAVE BEEN SPEAKING ABOUT, ABOUT KIDS LEARNING THEIR MATH FACTS. THAT DOES NOT MEAN THAT TEACHERS IN INDIVIDUAL CLASSROOMS ARE NOT DOING THAT, IT'S JUST NOW PART OF THE BROADER CURRICULUM. THERE HAVE BEEN SORT OF SOME QUESTIONS ABOUT THE RELEASE OF THE CURRICULUM. YOU KNOW, WE DON'T KNOW WHAT SCHOOL IS GOING TO LOOK LIKE IN THE FALL, AND I KNOW THE UNIONS, THE TEACHERS UNIONS, AND SOME EDUCATORS ARE WONDERING, YOU KNOW, HOW IS THIS ROLLOUT GOING TO TAKE PLACE WHEN THERE'S SO MUCH UNCERTAINTY OF WHAT THE FALL WILL LOOK LIKE.

The caption changes to "Producer: Meredith Martin, @MeredithMartin."

Steve says CAROLINE, YOU ALWAYS SUM IT UP SO BEAUTIFULLY FOR US AND PUT A BOW ON IT TO BOOT. THANKS FOR BEING ON "THE AGENDA." TONIGHT.

Caroline says THANKS, STEVE. THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

Watch: Ontario Schools Wrap Up a Tough Year