Secondary students in Kawartha Lakes will still not be back to pre-pandemic normal come September, but a traditional-looking school year is getting a bit closer. The Trillium Lakelands District School Board has opted to move from octomesters, where students take one class a day all day for 22 days, to quadmesters, where they will take one class in the morning and one class in the afternoon every day for 44 days.
Director of education Wes Hahn made that announcement, and more, as he shared the September return to school plan with trustees at their June 8 regular board meeting.
“Quadmesters of this kind has been recommended by the ministry,” Hahn said, “Cohorting has been relaxed by both the ministry and the board of health, making this move possible.”
Hahn told trustees that the registration for 2021-2022 is completed. With those numbers, the board is going ahead with setting up classes, finalizing course selections and staffing for the new school year, all the while realizing that budget restraints for 2021-2022 will slow this process and it “will take time to match students and teachers together.”
The board expects to have approximately 16,300 students in 2021-22, with 15,600 in brick and mortar schools and 688 in some kind of virtual instruction. That virtual number includes 293 secondary students and 391 elementary students.
Hahn expects the virtual numbers to decrease even more between now and August, “We expect the rollout of vaccines over the summer to impact those virtual numbers. As more staff and students get vaccinated it will have a dramatic effect on what September looks like.”
Hahn told trustees he had been asked when schools would be back “to normal” instead of quadmesters and when would schools be able to return to the pre-pandemic openness that was typical.
“That will be subject to the number of cases of COVID the system is facing,” Hahn said.
Hahn said that the priority of the board from the beginning of the outbreak has been to keep students and staff safe. With that in mind, September 2021 will look very much like September 2020, with masking and enhanced cleaning protocols still the order of the day at all board sites.
“We continue to upgrade ventilation systems in our buildings,” Hahn said, “increasing airflow while at the same time decreasing heating and electrical costs.”
Trustee John Byrne attempted a number of times to get specifics from senior board staff about how varied the offerings might be for online learning, particularly at the secondary panel, with so few students opting for virtual learning.
Superintendent of learning Katherine MacIver told Byrne, “All courses will not be available. If enough students do not sign up for a specific course they won’t run. There will be limitations in the virtual world.”
Byrne wondered if high school level technology or hospitality courses would be available virtually, although it appears that is not likely.
MacIver also added, “Students will not have the option for blended programming (a hybrid of both in-school and virtual learning).”