The Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) began its staggered start to the school year Sept. 8 as in-person classes began for one-quarter of elementary students.

The board is slowing the pace of the opening of the school year to adjust students to new COVID-19 routines. Elementary students are attending class one day during the first week, while secondary students are not starting classes until next week.

Director of education Wesley Hahn told trustees at a Sept. 8 committee of the whole meeting that early reports on the first day were positive.

“They kind of had that fear and anxiety, but we did get a sense from hearing people throughout their day as they got in and they got working – which we knew would happen – they got into a really good feeling of being at school,” Hahn said. “This is going to be a good thing for the mental wellbeing of everyone if we can get this going.”

But the board is continuing to work at all the changes required this year, from getting online schools ready to addressing transportation to getting timetables for secondary students. Hahn said late registrants for remote learning have challenged the transition.

When asked about parents who have not yet received communication about remote learning, Hahn said that is happening over the next couple of weeks and patience is needed.

“We wished we could have done it all at once, right away, but it’s just not possible,” Hahn said.

There is also an issue with bus driver shortages. Superintendent Tim Ellis said there is a shortage across the sector – with several boards significantly low – and there were 12 routes impacted in the TLDSB area. He said they are working with providers on the issue.

Ellis said the transportation department is also working to update routes based on online registrations. He said the shortage could be alleviated by reduced routes due to online learning. But he added there is a concern with more drivers resigning as the year progresses.

“As we ramp up to 100 per cent, some of the drivers might get that overwhelming feeling, particularly with the enhanced procedures we are asking of them,” he said.

As far as outbreak protocol, Hahn said staff have worked with the Ministry of Education’s management guide for their school setting. He said they are ready to address any cases as they arise.

“We can act quickly and make sure we can isolate those situations and make sure people within the buildings stay safe,” he said.

Cottager figures overblown

County of Haliburton trustee Gary Brohman brought up a rumour circulating that approximately 300 new students had registered at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School from cottagers choosing to move to Haliburton permanently.

Hahn said that is incorrect and they were working to find an accurate number for that.

“Those numbers are quite inflated,” Hahn said. “Not nearly that many.”

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