On July 30, 2020, the Ministry of Education released a list of designated school boards that would begin the 2020-21 secondary school year in an adaptive/hybrid model. Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) was selected as a designated school board.

Further direction from the Ministry of Education has resulted in some changes to our original plan and we hope that this updated information will be helpful to students and families. More details will be provided before the start of school.

First Day of School

The first day of school for all WRDSB secondary school students will be Friday, September 11, 2020. Cohort B will have their first day of school in-person on September 11, while Cohort A will be engaged in blended online learning from home.

Adaptive/Hybrid Model

For secondary students who choose to attend in-person learning, there would be two cohorts (groups): A, B.

Each class would be divided into two cohorts, either A or B, with approximately 15 students per cohort. A combination of face-to-face instruction and distance learning, delivered through asynchronous (independent learning with online resources) would make up the learning experience for our students.

In September, secondary schools will experience a quadmestering format, which involves a four-semester school year, with each semester offering two credits each. An example of a quadmester would be September 11 to November 10 with exam days from November 11-13. Each quadmester is approximately 9.5 weeks and ensures students are still engaging in the required 110 hours of learning.

Daily Schedule

Secondary school start times will remain the same as the 2019-20 school year and will vary depending on the school a student attends; however, school dismissal times have been adjusted.

Below is a sample daily schedule that illustrates what a day will look like in secondary:


A quadmester refers to a half-semester (ie September 11 – November 10). A quadmester model provides four quadmesters per year, offering two courses per quadmester. This model allows for less movement throughout the school and limits touch points among students and staff.

From there, students will be divided into two cohorts that will attend in-person learning for five days then engage in blended online learning from home for five days. One course will be offered per day for five consecutive days to minimize student to student and student to teacher contact. Schools will be contacting families in the coming days to inform students of their cohort.

The first quadmester runs from Friday, September 11 to Tuesday, November 10, followed by three exam days.

The second quadmester will run from Monday, November 16 to Friday, January 29, followed by two exam days.

Further information on the details around the third and fourth quadmesters will be shared in the near future.

Overview Schedule

Below you will find a calendar to illustrate the consecutive day schedule of the first quadmester. Information about the second quadmester (November 16 – January 29) will be released soon.


Secondary students will be divided into Cohorts (groups) of approximately 15 and will experience both in-person and distance learning. The learning schedule will involve one cohort or ‘Cohort A’ attending Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and the other ‘Cohort B’ attending Thursday and Friday. This schedule would rotate the following week. 


As per Public Health’s recommendations, all secondary school buses in our Region must be loaded to achieve some physical distancing during a student’s ride to and from school. Each bus will be loaded with a maximum of 24 students or 1 per bench. The exception is that siblings will need to sit together. This limits the transportation capacity and causes the need to create cohorts based on home address. Due to this change in loading capacity, Student Transportation Services of Waterloo Region (STSWR) staff divided each secondary school catchment into 2 zones. Transportation will only service one zone or half the catchment with each cohort.

The school will be able to modify the cohorts to suit their needs using the non-transported students. Students in the transported area will need to remain in their original cohort. Any new students requiring transportation must be assigned to the corresponding cohorts based on their home location.

Communication with your transportation technician will be needed to ensure proper cohort assignment, otherwise transportation will not be available to those students as only half the school catchment is serviced on any given day. We will not be able to accommodate additions to transportation between August 24th and September 15th. A seating plan will be in place for all transported students and must be adhered to. The cohorts will rotate every Thursday morning. 

Exam Schedule

The quadmestering model involves a four quadmester school year offering two credits each quadmester. Semester one quadmesters run from September 11 to November 10 and November 16 to January 29. Exams would be scheduled at the end of each quadmester. Exam dates for the upcoming four credits will be November 11, 12, 13 (end of quadmester 1) and February 1 and 2 (end of quadmester 2).

Secondary Distance Learning

The WRDSB recognizes that some families may elect to have their child(ren) learn from home rather than return to school in September. The WRDSB has developed a plan to support students who will engage in Full Distance Learning until such time as they are able to return to school. Through the WRDSB Confirmation of Attendance Form, available between August 7-21, 2020, families communicated if they wish their child(ren):

  1. To attend school in-person (Elementary In-Person Learning and Secondary Adapted Learning), or 
  2. To participate in Full Online Distance Learning from home, or 
  3. Tech-free/Paper-based Distance Learning

WRDSB Secondary students who choose Full Distance Learning – Online or Tech-free/Paper-based, will participate in real time, synchronous learning for a portion of each day. Classes will be led by qualified teachers at scheduled times during the school day. The amount of time students will spend in Full Distance Learning will be equal to the amount of time as students who chose In-Person Learning. 

WRDSB families/students who require support with technology or Internet access to engage in Full Distance Learning can contact their school in the week August 31 to September 4 to request support. Students in this model will be assigned to a qualified WRDSB teacher (one who may not be from their school) and with other peers (who may not be from their school) in a Full Distance Learning class. 

Students who choose Full Distance Learning, and who will be using technology, will be enrolled in D2L Brightspace. They will be registered in two classes per quadmester with students and teachers from throughout the WRDSB. Students who choose Full Distance Learning may not have the same timetable or course selections they requested in the spring. All attempts will be made to honour student courses requests; however, the priority for Full Distance Learning will be to provide compulsory courses. As such, there will be limited optional courses available in the Full Distance Learning program.

During Full Distance Learning, students will engage in a combination of asynchronous and synchronous (during school hours) learning to achieve the 110 hours of instruction per course. Students will be expected to log in to their Distance Learning classes every day. Attendance will be taken daily. Students and parents will be provided with a daily schedule or timetable that includes 150 minutes of learning opportunities per course, with a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning activities. 

Programming will be based on the full Ontario curriculum and include opportunities for guided instruction, large- and small-group learning, synchronous check-ins, and asynchronous independent work. Synchronous learning is Learning that happens in real time. 

Synchronous learning involves using text, video, or voice communication in a way that enables educators and other members of the school- or board-based team to instruct and connect with students in real time. 

Asynchronous learning: Learning that is not delivered in real time. Asynchronous learning may involve students watching pre-recorded video lessons, completing assigned tasks, or contributing to online discussion boards. 

For Secondary students in Grades 9 -12 the daily minimum synchronous learning time requirement will be 120 minutes for each 150 minute class. The synchronous learning will be provided for large and small groups of students each day, in a manner similar to in-person classroom teaching. Synchronous learning time may include students working independently and in small groups while engaged in a virtual classroom with the teacher overseeing their learning and available for questions. 

Students may be exempted from the minimum requirements for synchronous learning, on an individual basis. Requests for an exemption must be made in writing. To support meaningful access to education, alternative learning approaches will be put in place for all exempted students. Exempted students will be provided with a daily schedule or timetable in accordance with 150-minutes per course. WRDSB will assess whether there are students who need access to a device or Internet and take steps to distribute school resources to ensure students can stay connected, wherever possible, to learning.

For students who engage in Full Distance Learning in a technology-free manner, packages of learning resources and supports will be provided and will fulfill grade appropriate curriculum or course specific requirements. A teacher and/or designated education staff will be supporting students through this learning mode and will make regular contact by phone. Phone calls are intended to be a way of connecting with students, providing opportunities to answer questions they may have and providing feedback on completed work. Regular Cycles of student Assessment and Evaluation (diagnostic, formative, summative) will apply.  There will be an emphasis on conversations and observations to complement the collection of student work products.

Distance Learning Program

Students will continue to be considered part of their home school, but shared with a “Distance Learning Program”. Students will most likely be grouped with students who are from different schools. Teachers will be teaching students not only from their school, but from schools across the region.

The schedule for Distance Learning will align with the quadmester schedule for students who are attending in person. Students will study two (2) credits per quadmester based on the courses they selected last spring. Students will have the option to change from one mode of learning to another at the end of each quadmester (e.g., a student who is attending in person may wish to switch to Distance Learning). E-learning courses will continue to be semestered.

Distance Learning will begin with a focus on building relationships and connecting with students and families. Our staff will also help ensure access to the resources needed by the student. Teachers will spend the first days of class ensuring that families have the appropriate technology for online learning or learning materials for tech-free learning and establishing routines and ensuring the students gain familiarity with the D2L/VLE online platform.

The home school staff that support our students (e.g. Special Education, ESL, Student Success, CYW, SW, etc) will continue to do so in the Distance Learning program. For example, the home school Guidance teacher will support our DL students with any course choice adjustments and pathway to graduation decisions.

It is important to note that significant reorganization of our high schools has had to occur in a very short timeline in order to welcome our students back to class in ways that are new to us all. Some course offerings and programs that are unique to a specific school or have a small number of students may not be available in our Distance Learning program. Home school course offerings may also be affected for the same reasons. Guidance staff will work to minimize these impacts on students and contact any affected students as quickly as possible to choose new options in these cases.

The teachers of our Distance Learning program will be qualified subject teachers working from their home school as a base, or in some specially accommodated cases from a work at home environment. Distance Learning teachers will be available and teaching in the program during the same school hours as our face to face school learners. We will be supporting these teachers in their practice and they will look forward to engaging with our Distance Learning students in both synchronous (real-time) and asynchronous (teacher/student working at different times) teaching methods.