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Ontario rejects TDSB pitch to cut class size, wants to maintain full day

SHAWN JEFFORDS, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Aug 18th, 2020

Talks between Canada’s largest school board and the Ontario government to cut elementary class sizes and address pandemic safety concerns continue after the province rejected a board plan that would have shortened daily class time for students.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said Monday that the government and Toronto District School Board officials are meeting to discuss back-to-school plans after the province rejected the board’s initial proposal on Friday.

It would have seen the board spend $20 million to hire more teachers and cut elementary class sizes to between 15 and 20 students depending on the grade.

The plan would have also required a change in the daily school schedule, cutting 48 minutes of classroom time to include teacher prep which is mandated by contract.

A typical class day has 300 minutes and anything less is not the preferred option, Lecce said.

“My hope is to work with the school board to … maximize the amount of time a student has in front of their teachers while, yes, keeping classroom sizes low,” he said. “It’s not an either or proposition.”

The board did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but will meet Tuesday to discuss next steps.

The inclusion of teacher prep time in the day was a major sticking point for the government and Premier Doug Ford appealed to union leaders to work with the government on the issue.

“I’m begging the teachers’ union, just work with us,” he said. “We want just a little bit more, and you shoot it down, it’s just not fair.”

The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario said Monday afternoon it has not engaged in discussions about preparation time with the ministry or the province’s school boards.

The talks come just weeks ahead of the start of school in September as teachers’ unions and some parents continue to raise concerns about class sizes during the pandemic.

They have asked the government to mandate school boards to lower class sizes to maintain physical distancing and provide funding to ensure space can be leased and more teachers hired.

Last week, the government announced a plan that would see boards access $500 million of their own savings to achieve physical distancing in classrooms.

School boards have said they are concerned and frustrated by that decision.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said Monday the government needs to be flexible in its approach to the TDSB plan and it’s effectively asking for unpaid work from teachers.

“If kids need a shorter day to stay safe, then the Premier has to stop saying he has the best plan in Canada and actually listen to what teachers, educators and hundreds of thousands of parents are asking for,” he said in a statement.

NDP education critic Marit Stiles said the government should adopt the TDSB’s plan without delay instead of “creating chaos” in the school system.

“On one hand, Doug Ford says we shouldn’t send kids back to overcrowded classrooms,” she said. “But this government is refusing to work with the board to make that happen.”

Meanwhile, Toronto Public Health announced Monday that it has created a team of 70 nurses to provide education and training sessions to school staff, parents and caregivers aimed a bolstering infection control and prevention.

The board of health has previously called for smaller class sizes to accommodate physical distancing, expanded use of masks and an enhanced testing strategy.

The city said it is working with both the TDSB and the Toronto Catholic District School Board to identify city real estate and spaces which can be used to support physical distancing.

“These proactive and responsible actions will help to reduce transmission in schools and ensure an effective response,” board of health chairman Joe Cressy said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Ontario is reporting 99 new cases of COVID-19, with 83 more resolved cases of the virus on Monday.

The total number of cases now stands at 40,745, which includes 2,789 deaths and 37,036 cases marked as resolved.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said 31 of Ontario’s 34 public health regions reported five or fewer cases.

Police search for prisoner released by mistake in Milton

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Aug 18th, 2020

Halton police are searching for a prisoner who was released by mistake from a facility in Milton last night.

Around 11 p.m. police were contacted by staff from the Maplehurst Correctional Complex that the prisoner had been released and that help was needed to locate him.

Amritpal Singh Aujla, 28, was last seen leaving the correctional complex on foot.

He is described as East Indian, about five feet 10 inches tall, with a slim build, shoulder length black hair, and a black beard.

He was last seen wearing a Tommy Hilfiger track suit with a large Tommy Hilfiger symbol printed in the middle of the chest. He was also carrying a black backpack.

Police are asking for the public’s help in finding Aujla but say if you see him, don’t approach him, but call 911.

Many parents nervous about return of school, plan to send kids anyway: poll

LEE BERTHIAUME THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Aug 18th, 2020

With only weeks until classes resume, a new survey suggests the majority of Canadian parents plan to send their kids back to school but most would want classes cancelled if there is a new COVID-19 outbreak in their community.

The survey by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies is the latest to take parents’ temperature as provinces prepare to reopen schools after sending children home this spring when the pandemic arrived.

The results suggest many parents are torn, with 66 per cent of respondents with children admitting they were worried about children returning to school but 63 per cent saying they planned to send their kids anyway.

Yet 69 per cent also felt all classes should be suspended and learning shifted back to home if there is a significant increase in COVID-19 cases in their community, with 19 per cent saying classes should continue and 12 per cent unsure either way.

The online survey of 1,510 Canadians over age 18, including 385 parents with school-aged children in their households, took place Aug. 14-16. An internet poll cannot be given a margin of error because it is not a random sample.

The results underscore the nervousness and sensitivities around the planned reopening of school, says Leger president Jean-Marc Leger, with many parents supporting the return of classes but ready to shut it down again at the drop of a hat.

“People are nervous,” he said. “It’s a very sensitive question.”

The survey also found strong support among respondents with children for requiring certain protections to be taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at schools, including 76 per cent who said students should have to wear masks.

The result was not broken down by whether masks should be required for only high school students or students in both high school and elementary. Some provinces such as Ontario are requiring masks for students in certain grades but not others.

Eighty-four per cent of respondents with kids said teachers and school staff should be required to wear masks while 75 per cent supported temperature checks for children and 71 per cent wanted screening questionnaires.

“People are saying: ‘Okay, we agree. We support the government’s initiative. But at the same time, you should ensure that the rules are respected at school,’” said Leger.

Parents were more divided over what to do if a student or teacher in their kid’s class tested positive for COVID-19.

While 24 per cent reported they would keep their kids home from school indefinitely, 35 per cent said they would keep them home for at least 14 days while 33 per cent indicated they would follow the advice of their school on next steps.

Ford to speak at all virtual Association of Municipalities Ontario conference

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Aug 17th, 2020

Premier Doug Ford is set to speak at this year’s Association of Municipalities Ontario conference on Monday.

The event is being held entirely online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will feature discussions and workshops about how municipalities can begin to recover from the outbreak’s economic ravages.

Also today, 10 cabinet ministers will participate in a forum on “supporting community well-being.”

They include Health Minister Christine Elliott and Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

The AMO has at times clashed with the provincial government during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying last month that emergency funds haven’t flowed to municipalities quickly enough.

They pointed the finger at “federal-provincial wrangling about how to share the costs.”

Man shot while sitting in car near Warden Woods Park

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Aug 17th, 2020

A man in his 20s is in hospital after an overnight shooting near Warden Woods Park

According to police, a couple was sitting in a car parked in a wooded area west of Pharmacy Avenue near Teasdale Place, north of Danforth Avenue, around midnight, when a man approached them.

Police said some sort of altercation began between the couple in the car and the man, ending in the man inside the car being shot.

The couple drove back home and called police.

Paramedics took the man to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The woman was treated at home for minor injuries.

Police have not released a description of the suspect.

Raptors poised for playoffs after feel-good, resilient regular season

MICHAEL GRANGE, SPORTSNET | posted Monday, Aug 17th, 2020

However it eventually ends, the 2019-20 Toronto Raptors season – all 11 months and counting of it – will never be forgotten.

It was as feel-good of a regular season as you’re going to find in professional sports, full of surprises and stories and moments – and that was before the Raptors rolled into Walt Disney World Resort in team busses labelled with Black Lives Matter in ‘We the North’-style script and kept rolling to a 7-1 record in the eight reseeding games that concluded an abbreviated regular season.

“It was a pretty good one, I think,” said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse before he sent out a partial squad for Toronto’s 117-109 win over the Denver Nuggets that saw his club earn a 53-19 record, translating to a 60-win pace over a full 82-game season. “I think it was the best winning percentage in Raptors history, wasn’t it? [at .736, it was, breaking the mark set in 2017-18]. It was good.

“What we’ve talked about a lot during the year is probably a lot of people didn’t expect us to have this kind of season. A lot of guys stepped up. A lot of growth for a lot of players. I think our defence was great. There was a lot of resiliency considering we had a lot of injuries, too. I think we were top three or four in injuries or games missed in the wrong direction. Just a good kind of top-to-bottom effort by the crew for certainly the first 60-plus games, and then to regather and keep it rolling once we got here. It’s good. It’s a joy to be around this team. As you know, I’ve said that many times.”

Friday’s win provided more of the same, in a good way. Even with Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka out resting or nursing minor ailments, Toronto was game to play in a win that left them with the second-best record in the NBA. Stanley Johnson – buried all season – led the Raptors with 23 points and six assists and the intriguing Paul Watson chipped in 22 points on 13 shots.

If happiness is expectation less reality, there is good reason for Raptors fans to be happy – ecstatic even. Widely written off as contenders with the departure of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, the Raptors put up a record-breaking season and finished ahead of both the Los Angeles Lakers (Green’s new team) and the Los Angeles Clippers (Leonard’s team) in the standings.

So, before the No.2-seeded Raptors open their championship defence with their first-round playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets on Monday afternoon, how about five takeaways from a highly irregular regular season?

• The Raptors faced their first mini-crisis back on Nov. 10 when the defending champions rolled into the gym of the presumptive champions – the Lakers anchored around superstars LeBron James, Anthony Davis and supported by former teammate Green – without Lowry and Ibaka, both injured in a win over New Orleans that kicked off a testing five-game west coast road trip. How to avoid being blown out, was the vibe.

Instead the Raptors – who at that point were deemed by Nurse to not have depth players worth playing heavy minutes – left Staples Centre with a 113-104 win in which they held James to 13 points on 15 shots, Green scoreless and got 43 points from their bench with Chris Boucher, Terence Davis and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson all playing pivotal roles.

• It’s hard to remember, but there was a time when the championship favourite in the Eastern Conference was the Philadelphia 76ers who lost to the Raptors in seven games in the second round of the 2019 playoffs. The Sixers added Al Horford from the Boston Celtics and even with the departure of Jimmy Butler, were rolling out four “max” players in Ben Simmons, Horford, Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid.

But the moon around which all things orbit in Philadelphia is Embiid, which is fine except that every time Embiid plays the Raptors, Marc Gasol blocks out the sun. After holding Embiid to 37 per cent shooting over the seven-game series in May, you might have thought the big Philly centre would want to make a statement. Instead he didn’t make a peep as the Raptors, led by Gasol, held the Emiid to 0-of-11 from the floor and 0-for-4 from three-point territory as he went scoreless for the only time in his NBA career. The Raptors improved to 12-4.

• Not that anyone who has watched them would ever need convincing that the Raptors are a group that competes to the end regardless of the scoreboard, but just to prove the point: on Dec. 22 the Dallas Mavericks arrived at Scotiabank Arena and nearly blew Toronto out of their own building. Over a 13-minute stretch, beginning with just under four minutes left in the second quarter, the Raptors were outscored 49-17 and the Mavs seemed poised to coast home with a 30-point lead with 15 minutes to play.

The only problem is the Raptors don’t coast. With Davis and Boucher leading the charge and Lowry finishing the job, Toronto erased the Mavericks’ lead with a 42-12 run that was sealed with a Lowry-Boucher pick-and-roll ending in a game-winning dunk to cap the largest comeback in franchise history and the largest in the NBA in 10 years.

• The Raptors’ win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Jan. 15 was mostly notable for a 9-of-11 shooting night off the bench from Norm Powell and a nice road win over a solid Thunder squad. What no one knew at the time was that the Raptors were about to go on a franchise-best 15-game winning streak that could have been longer had Toronto not stumbled on the road against Brooklyn nearly a month later. The streak all but confirmed the Raptors as the No. 2 seed in the East and was another peak moment in a season full of them.

• As an organization the Raptors’ mantra was to ‘win the pause’ – in other words: what could the team and individuals on the team do to make sure they came out of the hiatus more prepared to compete than the competition. The Raptors were tested right away as they kicked off what was the most difficult eight-game seeding schedule – their opponents had a cumulative winning percentage of .638, which translates into playing 52-win teams for eight straight games.

They came out of the gates with a massive test as they were facing the Lakers for the second time this season in a high-profile matchup. The Raptors and Lowry were having none of it as the Raptors guard put up 33 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in a game where he was the best player on the floor, even with James and Davis on it. Notice was served:

“It’s a great team, no ifs, ands or buts. Exceptionally well-coached, championship DNA, you can never take that away from a ball club,” James said. “They’ve won a championship and even before that they have playoff-tested guys – that’s just a great team. The media might not talk about them much or give them credit because Kawhi is gone but players in the league definitely know what type of team they are.”

Brampton GoodLife Fitness closed after employee tests positive for COVID-19

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Aug 17th, 2020

A Brampton GoodLife Fitness club has temporarily closed its doors after an employee tested positive for COVID-19, the company said Sunday.

“An associate who was last in our club on Tuesday, Aug. 11, has tested positive for COVID-19,”  said Tracy Matthews, vice president of operations with the company. “We have notified all members who were in the club at the same time as this associate, and we are working with Peel Region Public Health on the swift and appropriate response to this situation.”

Matthews said the club, which is located at 499 Main Street South, has been “proactively closed” until Aug. 18.

She added that “GoodLife has taken tremendous strides to implement measures that are designed to decrease the risk of transmission in our Clubs, even if someone who tests positive for COVID-19 has been in our facility.”

These measures, she said, include enforcing mask use, managing physical distancing, regular cleaning and requiring employees pass a “fit for work” questionnaire before they start their shifts.

Woman in hospital after crash near Bloor and Parliament

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Aug 14th, 2020

A woman is in hospital after a single-vehicle crash in St. James Town early Friday morning.

Emergency crews were called to the area of Bloor Street East and Parliament Street just after 2 a.m.

Police say there was some sort of pursuit but did not provide further details.

The woman has serious but not life-threatening injuries.

The area is closed to traffic.

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