By Kirk Winter

Parents, students and staff of the Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) have been promised they’ll be told what the 2021-22 school year will look like come June 8.

Director of education, Wes Hahn, made the pledge at a May 25 board meeting.

Hahn said he wants everyone to know sooner rather than later what will be going on regarding instructional models in September.

“There are still a lot of moving parts and we are doing the best we can,” Hahn said “We don’t want to be scrambling that last week of August like we were last year. The only thing that might affect our June decisions is the ministry has promised a key update in mid-August that we might need to pivot from depending upon what they say.”

“We want to have kids back in school,” Hahn added. But we want to do it when it is right and safe and when the medical officers of health have approved that move.”

Families were asked to make a choice about in-person or virtual learning as of June 1. With those numbers, the board will have a better idea of where students are going to be.

Hahn said, “We can’t build anything concrete without those numbers. Staffing and budget are going to be so tight this year.”

He told trustees that an overwhelming number of parents have so far chosen in-school learning for their children but that all options are being looked at for delivering virtual learning, including a partnership with the board’s Virtual Learning Centre (VLC).

“For elementary learn at home, the numbers just aren’t there,” Hahn said. “The numbers committed at secondary are very low also.”

Hahn said there’s still significant instability regarding what September will look like because of issues around the vaccine roll-out and how many students between the ages of 12 and 17 choose to get vaccinated after they became eligible May 31.

“Vaccines are moving along quite well,” Hahn said. “They will have a definite impact on school opening in September.”

The director said high schools will open in September with cohorted classes utilizing either octomesters or quadmesters [studying one or two subjects at a time], and he expects direction from the ministry on which model the province would prefer. The board is also surveying its secondary leadership teams to see if they have a preference. At elementary, little change in the structure of a student’s day is expected.

Masks are expected to be mandatory, along with the enhanced cleaning protocols that were seen right across the board this year.

Trustee Louise Clodd asked Hahn if they are considering a hybrid form of delivery next year that would have a teacher instructing students in and out of class.

“We are not considering a hybrid model for next year,” Hahn said.

“It is not our preferred model and we think we have other options like teaming with VLC.”

The province announced June 2 students will not be returning to in-person classes this spring or summer.

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