Back to normal semesters quickly for Catholic Board – but not necessarily for TLDSB

By Kirk Winter

In another sign that the provincial government believes they have the pandemic under control, the ministry of education announced last week, to wide-based support from parents, students, teachers and school boards, that high schools will have the option of returning to the regular semester system in February 2022 if local COVID numbers allow.

The Peterborough Victoria Northumberland Clarington Catholic District School Board has already decided they will be taking advantage of this opportunity. Four subjects in four periods a day of learning hasn’t been seen at most PVNCCDSB high schools since February 2020.

Trillium Lakelands District School Board announced at their Nov. 23 board meeting that over the next week the board will be collecting information from administrators, staff and students on what model of course delivery is preferred. Only then will a decision be made about what model will be adopted for local public high schools.

In Kawartha Lakes, the ministry announcement could impact students enrolled at Fenelon Falls Secondary School, I.E. Weldon Secondary School and Lindsay Collegiate and Vocational Institute who ran octomesters in 2020-2021 and are now running quadmesters for the first part of 2021-2022 school year.

St. Thomas Aquinas CSS in Lindsay will not be affected. Small high schools like STA who could cohort by grade were allowed to run a normal semester system since schools re-opened to students last year.

Galen Eagle, communications manager for PVNCCDSB, the board responsible for St. Peter’s CSS which is attended by a number of local students living in Emily Township, said, “Yes,( the ministry has given boards choice on this matter). The Ministry of Education is providing school boards with the option of returning to a semester model given the higher rates of vaccination and the relatively low rates of COVID-19 in Ontario secondary schools. All PVNCCDSB secondary schools will be transitioning back to a regular semester schedule at the beginning of Semester 2 in February.”

Eagle said that students should be getting their new timetables in January. When asked if PVNCCDSB has a plan if numbers of COVID cases were to suddenly rise, Eagle said the board will continue to monitor the situation in coordination with their local public health units. Eagle suggested that if PVNCCDSB needs to pivot one way or another regarding an unexpected rise in COVID numbers, secondary schools could be re-timetabled again in one to two weeks.

“We anticipate the shift back to a semester schedule will have a positive impact on student engagement,” Eagle said, “Some learners and educators have had a positive experience with the quadmester model, while some are looking forward to a return to a more normal school life. The quadmester timetable was not intended for long-term use.”

Eagle added, “The transition back to a semester model marks the achievement of another milestone on the path to creating a more normal secondary school experience for students.”

When asked to address student and staff concerns regarding the consistency of evaluation within one school year of programs delivered in two different formats, Eagle said, “Assessment and evaluation practices will remain consistent for both the quadmester model and the regular semester model and therefore there will be no difference in evaluation.”

TLDSB director of Education Wes Hahn told trustees that senior staff will proceed carefully before any decisions for Semester Two are made.

“We want to be very careful and very thorough before decisions are taken,” Hahn said. “We will be speaking with our secondary administrators who are working with staff who are talking to students about the return to regular semesters.”

“There are benefits of a return to the semester system.”

Hahn did express concerns about the number of changes in delivery that staff has had to deal with going from semesters to octomesters to quadmesters and potentially back to regular semesters in only a year and a half.

“We want to make the best decision for students,” Hahn said.

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