Unforeseen enrollment increases at public school board

By Kirk Winter

Weldon is more crowded than usual, the TLDSB director of education speculates, because of its specialty programs.

Trillium Lakelands District School Board director Wes Hahn believes he can explain where an additional 500 students came from.

These students are are responsible for larger than expected class sizes, which has caused issues such as buses not picking up all students.

“These kids are from outside the system,” Hahn told the Advocate in a Google Meets interview.

“We believe a number of these kids are from outside the area and they have either decided to stay with grandparents or they are remaining at the family cottage as their parents are working remotely,” Hahn said. “The real question we are looking at is will they stay?”

Hahn added that he “definitely knows” that some of the numbers are very late registrations for kindergarten as parents waited for the last moment to commit.

When asked why the bulk of the secondary growth is at only two schools, I.E. Weldon and Huntsville High, Hahn said they are still analyzing that.

“But we think initially it is to access the specialized programming available at Weldon while Huntsville is growing in numbers as people move south from the Near North Board (the North Bay area) to be closer to the GTA.”

Hahn said at the recent Trillium Lakelands District School Board meeting that Superintendent Traci Hubbert has been  a key player in the reorganizing that is ongoing to accommodate these additional students.

“Each September there is a tremendous workload put on office staff and administrators in a non-pandemic year,” Hahn said. “It is much tougher to make these changes in a pandemic year.”

While the board can alleviate overcrowded classrooms by additional teacher hiring, Hahn said that busing continues to be a problem for the board. Trustees were told that driver shortages are now a North American issue with no easy solution in sight.

OSSTF President Craig Horsley understood what Hahn was suggesting, but blamed at least part of the problem on the board “conservatively estimating growth year after year.” 

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