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YCDSB switching to hybrid classroom model for elementary students

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Oct 8th, 2020

The York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) has made the decision to switch their elementary schools to a hybrid model, combining in-person and virtual schooling.

In a statement to CityNews, the board said the decision was made due to “various operational and staffing challenges faced in the current remote learning model.”

The change will see all elementary class structures reorganized as of Oct. 14. All students will be a part of their home school and will put face-to-face learners in the same class as remote learners under the direction of one teacher.

Remote learners will join via Google classroom.

Parents will be able to transition their children from face-to-face to remote learning at any time now while requests to move a child to in-person learning will only be accommodated when there is enough space in the classroom to maintain physical distancing.

The board adds there will be some schools that have a few entirely remote classes due to the large number of online students.

It’s unclear what will happen to the teachers who have opted to teach remote learning.

Pence, Harris spar over COVID-19 in vice-presidential debate

STEVE PEOPLES, KATHLEEN RONAYNE, MICHELLE L. PRICE AND JILL COLVIN, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Thursday, Oct 8th, 2020

Trading barbs through plexiglass shields, Republican Mike Pence and Democrat Kamala Harris turned the only vice-presidential debate of 2020 into a dissection of the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with Harris labeling it “the greatest failure of any presidential administration.”

Pence, who leads the president’s coronavirus task force, acknowledged that “our nation’s gone through a very challenging time this year,” yet vigorously defended the administration’s overall response to a pandemic that has killed 210,000 Americans.

The meeting, which was far more civil than last week’s chaotic faceoff between President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden, unfolded against an outbreak of coronavirus now hitting the highest levels of the U.S. government. Trump spent three days at the hospital before returning to the White House on Monday, and more than a dozen White House and Pentagon officials are also infected, forcing even more into quarantine.

With less than four weeks before Election Day, the debate was one of the final opportunities for Trump and Pence to reset a contest that could be slipping away. They’re hoping to move the campaign’s focus away from the virus, but the president’s infection – and his downplaying of the consequences – are making that challenging.

Trump and Biden are scheduled to debate again on Oct. 15, though the status of that meeting is unclear. The president has said he wants to attend, but Biden says it shouldn’t move forward if Trump still has coronavirus.

Republicans desperately want to cast the race as a choice between two candidates fighting to move the country in vastly different directions. Biden and Harris, they say, would pursue a far-left agenda bordering on socialism; the Democrats say Trump’s administration will stoke racial and other divides, torpedo health care for people who aren’t wealthy and otherwise undercut national strength.

Harris, 55, made history by becoming the first Black woman to stand on a vice-presidential debate stage. She condemned the police killings of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and George Floyd in Minnesota and spoke about the protests against racial injustice in policing that followed, which Trump has portrayed as “riots” as he calls for law-and-order.

“We are never going to condone violence but we must always fight for the values that we hold dear,” Harris said. “I’m a former career prosecutor. I know what I’m talking about. Bad cops are bad for good cops.”

Pence, 61, said his heart breaks for Taylor’s family but he trusts the U.S. justice system. He called it “remarkable” that Harris, as a former attorney general and prosecutor, would question the grand jury’s decision in the case not to charge an officer with killing her.

He also pushed back against the existence of systemic racism in police departments and rejected the idea that law enforcement officers have a bias against minorities.

“I want everyone to know who puts on the uniform of law enforcement every day, President Trump and I stand with you,” Pence said. “We don’t have to choose between supporting law enforcement, proving public safety and supporting our African American neighbours.”

The candidates also clashed on taxes — or specifically, Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns four years after repeatedly promising to do so. The New York Times reported last month that the president pays very little personal income tax but owes hundreds of millions of dollars in debt.

“It’d be really good to know who the president owes money to,” Harris said.

“The one thing we know about Joe, he puts it all out there. He is honest, he is forthright,” she added. “Donald Trump, on the other hand, has been about covering up everything.”

Pence defended Trump as a job creator who has paid more than his fair share of taxes and shifted toward Biden: “On Day One, Joe Biden’s going to raise your taxes.”

Both candidates sidestepped difficult questions at times.

Pence refused to say whether climate change was an existential threat or whether Trump would accept the election results should he lose, while Harris declined to say whether Biden would push to expand the number of justices on the Supreme Court.

But so long as the coronavirus is ravaging the White House and killing several hundred Americans each day, the campaign will almost certainly be a referendum on the Trump administration’s inability to control the pandemic, which Republicans have sought to downplay or ignore altogether for several months.

Pence’s effort to focus on other topics was undercut by the mere fact that the candidates and moderator were separated by plexiglass shields, seated more than 12 feet apart and facing a crowd of masked audience members who faced expulsion if they removed their face coverings. The candidates on stage revealed test results earlier in the day proving they were not infected.

While the audience was forced to wear face masks throughout, second lady Karen Pence removed her mask as she joined her husband on stage at the end of the debate.

Though the night was about Pence and Harris, the men at the top of the ticket also made their presence known.

Trump released a video just three hours before the debate calling his diagnosis “a blessing in disguise” because it shed light on an experimental antibody combination that he credited for his improved condition – though neither he nor his doctors have a way of knowing whether the drug had that effect.

He tweeted several times during the debate, offering this assessment at one point: “Mike Pence is doing GREAT! She is a gaffe machine.”

Biden too kept a stream of tweets going; he posted his plans for confronting the virus, shared clips from the debate exchanges and praised Harris, who he said “is showing the American people why I chose her as my running mate.”

There was also briefly another participant swooping into Wednesday night’s vice-presidential debate.

For several minutes, a fly landed in Vice-President Mike Pence’s hair, not moving as he answered questions about racial injustice and whether justice has been done in the death of Breonna Taylor.

Conversation about the fly briefly dominated corners of Twitter, where debate watchers discussed their distraction and inability to focus on Pence and California Sen. Kamala Harris’ answers. Some joked about the need to test the fly for the coronavirus, as it had skirted the plexiglass partitions separating the candidates and moderator.

Wednesday night’s intruder wasn’t the first to take centre stage at an election year debate. In 2016, a fly briefly landed between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s eyes during a town hall-style debate with now-President Donald Trump.

Some GTA pharmacies report running out of flu shots

NEWS STAFF AND THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Oct 8th, 2020

With flu season upon us and demand expected to be high for the flu shot, it appears that some pharmacies in the province have already run out of doses.

After contacting multiple Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacy locations, at least three locations in the GTA, at King Street and Spadina Avenue, Yonge and Charles Streets and at Rutherford Mall in Vaughan, reported they were already out of flu shots.

Others have reported long line-ups and a lack of appointments available until at least the weekend.

A CityNews viewer also reported going to three different Shoppers in Ottawa before she received a flu shot. She had pre-registered to get the shot, but still had to wait over an hour indoors.

Shoppers Drug Mart began their staggered rollout of the flu shot on Wednesday.

An associate owner and pharmacist at a Shoppers Drug Mart in east-end Toronto, Victor Wong, said earlier this week, requests for the flu shot
“have been off the charts,” with some customers asking about its arrival since the summer.

He expected demand to be high at his store after hearing some doctors are skipping the season entirely.

“We have local doctors, even within our close proximity, who have already phoned us to let us know that they will not be opening up their clinics this year for flu shots or will be diverting their flu shot patients to our store,” says Wong, whose store delivered more than 600 flu shots last year

In Ontario, the Ontario Medical Association says 55 per cent of flu shots are delivered by physicians, 40 per cent by pharmacies, and 5 per cent by corporate employers who provide them to their workforce. Data was insufficient on the remaining 5 per cent.

The Ford government has also made encouraging Ontario residents to get the flu shot part of the province’s plan to combat COVID-19 and have spent $70 million to purchase 5.1 million doses of the flu vaccine – 700,000 more than the previous year.

This year, the Public Health Agency of Canada says more than 13 million doses have been ordered, a jump from last season’s 11.2 million doses.

Ten per cent of that is the high-dose influenza vaccine – itself a 25 per cent increase from last season as public health focuses on inoculating more adults 65 years and older, who account for most hospitalizations and deaths from flu and COVID-19.

Man found dead in vehicle after shooting near Bathurst and Lawrence

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Oct 8th, 2020

A man is dead after shots rang out overnight in the Bathurst and Lawrence area.

Emergency crews were called to the scene at Bathurst Street and Ranee Avenue around 11:30 for reports of multiple gunshots heard.

When police arrived, they found the victim in a vehicle that had stopped on a nearby yard.

The man had suffered critical injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Witnesses had reported seeing two vehicles leave the area at the time shots were heard. It’s believed the victim was driving one of those cars.

Police have not released a description of the other vehicle.

Investigators have closed off all streets in the area to try to determine the exact location of the shooting.

Officers also canvassed the area for witnesses.

4 injured in College and Lansdowne crash

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Oct 7th, 2020

Four people, believed to be in their teens, are injured after a crash in the city’s west end early Wednesday morning.

The crash happened near College and Lansdowne streets around 3 a.m.

Two young males were taken to hospital with possible life-threatening injuries. Two other young people are being treated for minor injuries.

Police have not yet released the ages of those injured.

The cause of the crash is not yet known.

Pence-Harris debate to unfold as Trump recovers from virus

STEVE PEOPLES, KATHLEEN RONAYNE AND JILL COLVIN, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Wednesday, Oct 7th, 2020

Vice-President Mike Pence and his Democratic challenger, California Sen. Kamala Harris, are poised to meet Wednesday for a debate that will offer starkly different visions for a country confronting escalating crises.

The faceoff in Salt Lake City is the most highly anticipated vice-presidential debate in recent memory. It will unfold while President Donald Trump recovers at the White House after testing positive last week for the coronavirus and spending several days in the hospital, a serious setback for his campaign that adds pressure on Pence to defend the administration’s handling of the pandemic.

For Harris, the debate is her highest-profile opportunity to vocalize how the Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, would stabilize the U.S., especially when it comes to resolving the pandemic and addressing racial injustice. She will be able to explain her views on law enforcement, an area in which she’s viewed warily by some progressives, given her past as a prosecutor.

Ultimately, the debate is a chance for voters to decide whether Pence and Harris are in a position to step into the presidency at a moment’s notice. It’s hardly a theoretical question as the 74-year-old Trump combats the virus, and Biden, at 77, would become the oldest person to become president if he’s elected.

While the debate will likely cover a range of topics, the virus will be at the forefront.

Pence and Harris will appear on stage exactly 12.25 feet (3.7 metres) apart separated by plexiglass barriers. Anyone in the small audience who refuses to wear a mask will be asked to leave.

Pence, who was with Trump and others last week who have since tested positive, has faced questions about whether he should be at the debate at all. The vice-president has repeatedly tested negative for the virus, and his staff and doctors insist he does not need to quarantine under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

The CDC defines risky “close contact” as being within 6 feet (1.8 metres) of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from two days before the onset of symptoms or a positive test.

Pence’s team objected to Harris’ request for plexiglass barriers, arguing it was medically unnecessary. But the Commission on Presidential Debates had already agreed to the barriers, and Pence’s aides said their presence wouldn’t dissuade him from attending the event.

Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, said there is “zero risk” of the vice-president pulling out of the debate over the plexiglass spat. He said Pence “will be there” because it’s “too important for the American people.”

“The hesitancy seems to be on other side,” he added.

Sabrina Singh, a spokesperson for Harris, said the senator “will be at the debate, respecting the protections that the Cleveland Clinic has put in place to promote safety for all concerned.” The Cleveland Clinic serves as a health adviser to the Commission on Presidential Debates.

Despite the early sparring, the debate is unlikely to be a repeat of the chaotic debate between Trump and Biden last week.

Pence is eager to seize on Harris and Biden’s liberal policies, but it may be difficult to shift the conversation away from the Republican administration’s uneven handling of the pandemic. Pence serves as chair of the president’s coronavirus task force, which has failed to implement a comprehensive national strategy even as Trump himself recovers from the disease and the national death toll surges past 210,000 with no clear end in sight.

The vice-president is a 61-year-old former Indiana governor and ex-radio host, an evangelical Christian known for his folksy charm and unwavering loyalty to Trump.

Harris is a 55-year-old California senator, the daughter of a Jamaican father and an Indian mother. She is also a former prosecutor whose pointed questioning of Trump’s Supreme Court nominees and cool charm on the campaign trail made her a Democratic star.

She will make history as the first Black woman to appear in a vice-presidential debate. Democrats hope the historic nature of her candidacy will help energize key groups of likely Democratic voters — African Americans and young people, in particular — who have shown less excitement for Biden.

It’s unclear how aggressive the candidates will be with each other.

Both have adopted a cautious approach on the trail, keeping in line with past running mates who, above all, are tasked with not hurting their party’s ticket.

Some Harris allies fear that a conservative approach will prevent her from shining.

“Overly scripting Kamala Harris is tantamount to removing five bullets out of her gun before you walk into a gun fight,” said Nathan Barankin, who served as Harris’ chief of staff in the Senate and when she was California attorney general.

While some Democrats have set high expectations for the debate, Harris and her allies have been trying to keep them low. Last month, when California’s state Senate president told Harris on a Zoom call that home state fans were excited to watch her debate, Harris quickly interjected.

“He’s a good debater,” she said, laughing. “I’m just, I’m so concerned, like I can only disappoint.”

Gender will likely play a role in the debate, Hillary Clinton, the first woman to lead a presidential ticket, said during a recent fundraiser.

She suggested Pence would try to paint Harris as “the inexperienced woman candidate.” Harris will have to be mindful of the double standard for women in politics as she responds, Clinton said.

“She’s got to be firm and effective in rebutting any implication that comes from the other side, but to do it in a way that doesn’t, you know, scare or alienate voters,” Clinton said.

Harris has been preparing for the debate in Salt Lake City since Saturday. Karen Dunn, a Washington lawyer who helped prepare Clinton for her 2016 debates against Trump, is leading Harris’ debate preparations.

Harris plans to focus on failures of leadership by the Trump-Pence administration but avoid personal attacks against Trump, as Biden has done since the president was hospitalized for the virus, according to a campaign aide who wasn’t authorized to discuss debate planning publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Pence’s team has been reluctant to discuss his strategy in debate preparations except to note that he is “thorough” in everything he does.

Pence has spent the last four years defending the president on a near-daily basis and mastered the art of turning Trump’s chaotic rhetoric into more palatable, middle-of-the-road commentary.

Aides note that Pence’s criticism has focused almost exclusively on Biden and his record instead of Harris. It’s likely to stay that way Wednesday, but he has not completely ignored Harris.

In an interview with a conservative talk show host in Iowa last week, the vice-president cast the California senator as a left-wing extremist. Pence also said he was “counting the days to the debate.”

“In Kamala Harris, you have someone who actually was the most liberal member of the United States Senate in 2019,” Pence said.

“While I’m going to go there and make our case to the American people, and I’m going to take the fight to Joe Biden and his agenda, we’re also going to make sure people know the record of his running mate, and the positions that she’s taken.”

___

Peoples reported from New York. Colvin reported from Washington.

Steve Peoples, Kathleen Ronayne And Jill Colvin, The Associated Press

Byfield becomes highest drafted Black player in NHL history

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Oct 7th, 2020

Quinton Byfield became the highest drafted Black player in NHL history on Tuesday night when the Los Angeles Kings selected him with the second pick.

“Being in the record books for anything is definitely super special, but that especially,” Byfield said. “My dad and mom didn’t play hockey or didn’t have too much knowledge about that. Kind of just growing the game together. I think it just shows that there’s a lot of opportunity for everyone in the world and that you can play every sport and be successful in it.”

Byfield was immediately congratulated by San Jose’s Evander Kane and hopes to one day help hockey’s diversity initiatives.

“The league is doing a really a really good job with all the inclusivity and just the awareness that they’re getting out,” Byfield said. “I think it would be really nice if I got involved with that and spread the positivity and just be a positive role model.”

The 6-foot-5 centre from Newmarket who played in the Ontario Hockey League might be able to start sooner than later. He believes he could play in the NHL next season.

“I’m pretty confident guy,” Byfield said. “I definitely think I could step into the NHL next year, but I know it’s a really big jump from the OHL and really challenging.”

Over 320 TDSB elementary schools to lose at least 1 in-person teacher in reorganization

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Oct 7th, 2020

Over 320 Toronto District School Board elementary schools will be losing at least one in-person teacher as the board reorganizes their staff two weeks into the school year.

In a letter sent home to parents, the TDSB says most of the teachers will be moved to virtual school due to the significant number of students, 66,000, who have chosen online learning.

The reorganization will see 12 schools gain one or two teachers, 161 schools lose one teacher, 97 schools will lose up to 2 teachers and 57 schools will lose between two and four teachers. Another nine schools will lose more than four teachers.

Parents whose students are affected by the reorganization will be informed directly from their school. The letter said the majority of schools will not experience significant changes.

The TDSB says these reorganization are typical in a school year and happen within two weeks to meet class size limits, but were delayed due to the year beginning on Sept. 15. The reorganizations will be completed by Oct. 13.

The board added any changes to class size will not exceed their original limits which are 24 students for kindergarten classes, 20 students per Grade 1 to 3 classes and 27 students for a Grade 4 to 8 class.

Schools in communities that are at a higher risk for COVID-19 have a limit of 15 students per kindergarten class and 30 students between Grade 1 to 8 classes.

There are have been a total of 611 cases of COVID-19 in 347 of Ontario’s more than 4,800 schools, the government said on its website for tracking school and child care cases. Of the cases, 141 were reported more than 14 days ago.

One school, Mason Road Junior Public School, was closed last week due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

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