By Kirk Winter
When there are snow days this year, the Trillium Lakelands District School Board has decided it will close schools and students taught online.
In the past, when the bus was cancelled due to bad weather, parents had the option of driving their children to school for in-class learning. That won’t happen this year, the board determined at its Nov. 10 meeting.
Director of Education, Wes Hahn, outlined the new protocols.
Prior to this year, schools remained open on snow days. Every school had some students still come who would be combined together into makeshift classrooms so that some learning could occur. However, the health unit has told the board that the mixing of cohorts on snow days is not allowed.
Now, if buses don’t run, all schools will be closed to students. Custodians and staff that can safely make it to school will be present in the building.
Staff, whether stranded at home or at school, will be expected to deliver online learning from their location.
“Learning will be occurring on snow days and this may be a permanent change moving forward,” Hahn said.
Hahn cited the limited number of instructional days available, particularly in a secondary school octoblock, and said that even a couple of non-instructional days lost to inclement weather could have significant educational impact on student learning. Octoblocks are when students study one subject at a time.
Board discusses graduation pictures
Bobcaygeon area trustee John Byrne said parent councils have expressed concern about students not getting their graduation pictures taken.
Outside individuals, such as photographers, have been restricted from school property to help contain the COVID-19 virus.
“Families want these pictures and I wonder if they can be taken virtually,” Byrne asked.
“I understand that families want to have them because they are part of their memories,” Hahn said.
“Public health is working on a provincial protocol for photographers in schools and if one can’t be safely worked out, the board locally will try to figure something out regarding graduation pictures,” Hahn said.
Provincial money welcome
The province of Ontario has promised $700 million in school infrastructure funding that must be spent in 2021.
“I see our share of this money being spent on small projects that can get done easily this year,” Hahn said.
“I can see projects like HVAC improvements and water stations being the kind of project we would spend our money on,” he added.
The announcement of funding for broadband Ontario-wide was also greeted very positively by the board as a whole.
“We are thrilled,” Hahn said.
“There is a rumour that there is more money coming for technology,” Hahn shared, “and we are hopeful because we have spent every penny that we have up to this point.”
The board hopes spending like this will help improve equity and access to technology.