Libraries, cafeterias, and extracurriculars are back at school this fall

By Kirk Winter

Libraries and cafeterias will be open at area high schools.

Trillium Lakelands District School Board’s director of education, Wes Hahn, hopes to see students return to schools with recess, music and choir programs, open cafeterias and libraries and a full range of extracurriculars when school starts again this fall.

“There has been a lot happening this summer,” Hahn told trustees at their Aug. 24 regular board meeting.

“Area COVID cases remain low and they are not rising like they were in the spring. As of today there are seven confirmed cases in Muskoka, one in Haliburton and 20 in Kawartha Lakes. Those numbers are hopeful, but we will still be continuing with many of the protocols that we have already been doing like deep cleaning high-touch surfaces and improving air quality with the installation of HEPA filtration systems in area schools.”

Masks will be required on board-supplied buses and masking from Kindergarten to Grade 12 will continue while students are in class.

Cohorting will continue for elementary students while they are inside the building, but students will be allowed to mix freely on the playground and share balls and equipment during recess without masks.

“Clubs and teams are back on,” Hahn said. “Many parents want these back and we believe that the opportunities for peers to make connections will be important for students at all grades.”

Secondary schools will be following the quadmester model with one subject in the morning and one subject in the afternoon for approximately 40 days until the end of semester one. Hahn is hoping that all secondary schools will be able to move back to full semesters as quickly as possible.

“Libraries and cafeterias will be open at secondary schools,” Hahn said. “It is important that we re-open these spaces and the month of September will be a learning curve as we try to do this safely for all. We are still in negotiation with companies like Aramark who provide our cafeteria services and we are hoping they will be open when school returns.”

Hahn also said that OFSSA, the umbrella organization for secondary school sports is up and running, and locally “sports are going to be encouraged.”

Visitors to schools must be vaccinated if they are going to be interacting with people inside the building.

Trustee John Byrne wanted to know the vaccination status for school bus drivers and was told that “drivers should be vaccinated.”

Trustee Gary Brohman asked for more clarification about elementary school recesses, wanting to know how much freedom the kids will have on the playground. He was assured by Hahn that students will be able to intermix and share sports equipment.

Vice-chair David Morrison was excited about the return of music to TLDSB schools but wondered how safety could be ensured in music rooms where singing and instrument playing are occurring? Hahn told Morrison that, particularly in some elementary schools, the space currently being used for the delivery of the music program is too small to allow social distancing. Principals in those schools have been asked to find larger spaces within their buildings to host music classes.

Student trustee Alexia Evan-Turnbull wanted to know if secondary students would gain access to lockers again. Hahn said that at this point lockers encourage gathering and become additional high touch surfaces that need to be cleaned. Hahn said that students made due without them last year, and will again this school year.

Student trustee Ryder Lytle asked when students will receive their timetables and was told sometime during the week of Aug. 30.

Craig Horsley, president of OSSTF District 15, said in an email that his members’ comfort levels with the current COVID restrictions are similar to that of the general public and it covers quite a large spectrum.

“We have members very concerned about personal safety with the unknown of the Delta variant, the effectiveness of ventilation…while at the same time other members are quite open about being double vaccinated with a willingness to follow health unit guidelines to get things like extracurriculars up and going. We firmly believe that extracurriculars are voluntary and the criteria for them to run should be based on the comfort level and willingness of a teacher to facilitate them.”  

Learn from Home

The Trillium Lakelands District School Board Learn at Home program for 2021-2022 will be a shadow of the 2020-2021 school year.

At this time, 327 elementary and 257 secondary students have registered in the virtual education program. This is a significant drop from the 2,000 who used Learn at Home as their primary vehicle for educational programming during 2020-2021.

Once students have committed to Learn at Home they will likely have to finish at least the semester in that program, according to Hahn.

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