by Kirk Winter

Haliburton County parents will be asked starting June 1 to select either brick and mortar learning or virtual learning for their children in the fall.

Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) director of education, Wes Hahn, told a May 11 board meeting that those decisions will go a long way to determine staffing and structures for 2021-2022.

“The ministry [of education] has clearly stated that they want kids registered in brick and mortar schools for September,” Hahn said.

However, he added, “We believe there will be the parental demand for a Learn at Home option. Funding for Learn at Home will not be what it was this year. If parents select Learn at Home, they need to understand that kids will not be able to move back and forth like they did this year. We want to get staffing settled as soon as we can,” the director said.

Trustee John Byrne asked what would be the minimum number of students required to offer the virtual elementary and secondary experience available this year.

“We know the number of students doing Learn at Home will be lower than this year. We will do the best with the money that we have,” Hahn said.

Byrne also questioned the feasibility of parents making a decision before a possible fourth wave of COVID this summer. He asked if there would be flexibility for student movement if such a thing happens.

“We will have to take a look at that with public health come summer,” Hahn said.

Haliburton area trustee Gary Brohman wanted to know how brick and mortar schools are going to operate in the fall and how they are going to be timetabled.

Hahn said, “There will be cohorting, although not as intensively as it is being done now. PPE usage and cleaning protocols will remain. We are expecting the octoblock or quadmester models [students study just one or two subjects at a time] to receive serious consideration again next fall.”

With regards to funding, the board now has its Grant for Student Needs (GSN) numbers, or how much it is getting per pupil, which will provide the bulk of the operating budget for the next school year but Hahn said he remains cautious.

“We are still working through the GSNs. It is very detailed this year because of the intertwining of COVID funding. There are a lot of complexities and decisions won’t be made till later in May and June,” he said.

Hahn also discussed vaccines and the impact they will have on educational planning over the next four months.

He said beginning May 6, all staff that come into direct contact with students were eligible to be vaccinated. By September, the board hopes all staff will be vaccinated.

“There is now the potential for students to be vaccinated. I think late August will look very different than where we are right now.”

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