Board adopts ‘octmesters’ — 22 straight, full days of same subject

By Kirk Winter

On Aug. 20, education minister Stephen Lecce instructed all non-designated boards to plan for a blocked semester school day for secondary schools. At the August 25 board meeting the Trillium Lakelands District School Board presented their new secondary school day structure along with voting mandatory masking for all students K-12.

Blocked semesters, also known as octmesters, will replace the quadmesters originally planned by the local board. Quadmesters were the option presented to parents earlier in August for their consideration as they and their children made decisions about whether their children would select in-person learning or remote learning.

Senior staff shared with trustees the new ministry ordered structure for high school learning. Blocked semesters work very simply. Students will take one class and one class only for the entirety of the school day, and for the next 22 days they will have no other subjects.

At the end of the 22 days students will switch their cohort and join another group of students. The next 22 days of instruction will be exclusively another subject the student has selected in their timetable.

They will repeat this process eight times over a school year, hence the term octmesters.

Students with spares in their timetable will be expected to stay home for the 22 day block they have no structured programming.

This structure may be familiar to students who have either done summer school through the board or have taken programming through the Adult Education Centre. Both have used a structure very similar to this for many years.

The goal of octmesters is to allow students to obtain high school credits in the shortest possible time, and to have the single smallest cohort of fellow students possible with an ongoing pandemic welcoming students back to school in the fall.

Trustees also discovered that students enrolled in French Immersion and/or the International Baccalaureate course at I.E. Weldon in Lindsay will have to attend in person as these programs will not be available via distance learning. Parents were not aware of this reality when many selected remote learning.

Director of Education Wes Hahn expected a number of students in these specialty programs will be looking to re-enroll for in person learning immediately.

Hahn said, “We will work hard to find space for these students.”

Hahn told trustees that high schools will need to be timetabled again over the next few days to implement the block semester schedule.

When a trustee shared with Hahn that these endless changes were “driving families nuts” Hahn sympathized.

“All the changes are going to be posted online immediately. We should be ready to go as a system in the next few days. We need to have people feeling good about coming back.”

At the same meeting trustees voted that all students K-12 will be masked in Trillium Lakeland Schools beginning September 8.  Students from K-3 were originally exempt under the provincial guidelines, but trustees said they had heard loud and clear from teachers, parents and bus drivers that mandatory masks at all grades was the proper and appropriate route to go.

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