By Kirk Winter
Trillium Lakelands District School Board staff shared the success and frustration of reopening schools at the Sept. 22 board meeting.
Superintendent of business, Tim Ellis spoke about the challenges board transportation staff have had making bus schedules work.
“We have had to put in an exceptional amount of work to streamline transportation this year,” Ellis said, “and in less than two weeks we were able to make most of the 7000 changes necessary in our routes.
“We are short of drivers and we have already had to cancel a few routes because of sick drivers,” Ellis added. “By Thanksgiving, I expect the driver shortages (due to illness) to be much worse. I wouldn’t blame drivers one bit for quitting considering the older demographic [they] most come from.”
He expects rolling cancellations of buses by October as drivers get ill. Ellis added their transportation partners are only covering routes now by doubling up on runs and using qualified office staff.
Director of Education, Wes Hahn tried to balance his return to school update by praising staff and students and admitting how difficult parts of this September’s opening have been.
“We have made incredible connections with our people as we have tried our best to have staff prepared,” Hahn said. “We have seen different people take the lead at their individual workplaces. Leadership is coming from teachers, custodians and office staff right across the board.
“We need to maintain positivity and we heard really great things regarding our staggered start from staff, parents, and students,” he said.
Hahn shared a story from a secondary school principal “who had never seen kids so settled and so connected with a teacher as they are in the octabloc system that is currently in place.”
“For some kids this is a really good environment,” Hahn said, “with them focusing on the one credit only.”
The director also discussed the Learning at Home program, calling it “a challenge.”
“We have five administrators working day and night to make this a reality. It is a work in progress and we appreciate the patience parents and students are showing. We will make this a success,” Hahn vowed.
Routines around mask wearing have been very good so far, Hahn added, both on buses and at school.
Hahn praised students for their appropriate behaviour on breaks and lunches, stressing how important mental health timeouts are for them. He also thanked parents.
“We will continue to work on behaviour in the community with our students and we will treat it as an educational opportunity moving forward,” Hahn said.