by Kirk Winter

The local school board expects to have more information in late May about what the 2021-2022 school year is going to look like.

Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) director of education, Wes Hahn, told the April 27 board meeting that planning for the fall “is tough right now.” He said one missing link was the Ministry of Education setting a funding model.

“We would like to be discussing budget and staffing but we have not received our GSNs (grant for student needs that specify how much money the board will get per pupil) and we really can’t do one without the other,” Hahn said.

The GSNs were announced May 4. The announcement includes a year-over-year increase of approximately $561 million, to a total of $25.6 billion, with per-pupil funding increasing from $12,525 to $12,686.

The first step of enrolling students in their online schools is underway, Hahn said. However, the board doesn’t know how much money there’ll be for virtual learning. They anticipate fewer students learning from home but need more information to plan. Hahn said they are also garnering parent feedback.

The province also announced May 4 that students can opt to take all their classes online when the new school year begins in September.

The province says the option will be available for the entire 2021-2022 school year and it will be providing more information to parents in the coming months.

Hahn said, “If cohorting is necessary next year, we want to create a model that causes minimal disruption for students, likely something similar to this year. We are waiting for vaccines to help bring back some kind of normalcy in the system.”

He said the back-and-forth has been challenging.

“Students, staff and parents have found this hard. We have to take our lead from the ministry and public health. We are having to react to what they recommend. It is not a great situation but this is the course we must follow.”

He also recognized staff in schools during the stay-at-home order, working with special education students. He said the board has 74 elementary and 85 secondary students in its programs.

He added some staff have been vaccinated but the pace is not what they might have liked, due to supply issues.

Haliburton trustee Gary Brohman said “the hardest thing to do is planning. But if planning isn’t done well nothing else happens.”

Trustee John Byrne wanted more information on the board’s plan for virtual learning. He said Durham Region asked its parents to commit to one option or the other by May 4.

“When will we be making decisions with or without knowing what our GSNs will be?” he asked.

Hahn said most boards are in the same boat as they are.

“We are looking at all sorts of situations. It would be very nice to know what the ministry was thinking. Some boards like Durham have been forced to staff early for next year based on dates contained in their collective agreements. We would like to avoid that, because it might force lastminute timetabling and staffing changes in the fall. We want to create the best learning we can which will begin by registering all students at their home schools and then we may need to pivot from there.”

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