By Kirk Winter

High school students in Haliburton County will see a significant change in their school day when they return in the fall.

The Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) has opted to move from octomesters, where students take one class a day, all day, for 22 days, to quadmesters, where they will take one class in the morning and one class in the afternoon every day for 44 days.

Director of Education, Wes Hahn, shared the September return to school plan with trustees at the June 8 regular board meeting.

“Quadmestering of this kind has been recommended by the ministry,” Hahn said, “Cohorting has been relaxed by both the ministry and the board of health, making this move possible.”

Hahn told trustees registration for 2021- 2022 is complete. The board is going ahead with setting up classes, finalizing course selections, and staffing for the new school year, realizing budget restraints will slow the process and it, “will take time to match students and teachers together,” Hahn said.

The board expects approximately 16,300 students, with 15,600 in brick-and-mortar schools and 688 in some kind of virtual instruction. That virtual number includes 293 secondary and 391 elementary students.

Hahn expects the virtual numbers to decrease between now and August. “We expect the rollout of vaccines over the summer to impact those virtual numbers. As more staff and students get vaccinated it will have a dramatic effect on what September looks like.”

Hahn told trustees he had been asked when schools would be back “to normal.”

“That will be subject to the number of cases of COVID the system is facing,” Hahn said.

Hahn added the board’s priority from the beginning of the outbreak has been to keep students and staff safe. With that in mind, September 2021 will look very much like September 2020, with masking and enhanced cleaning protocols still the order of the day at all board sites.

“We continue to upgrade ventilation systems in our buildings,” Hahn said, “increasing airflow while at the same time decreasing heating and electrical costs.”

Trustee John Byrne sought specifics about how varied on-line learning options could be, particularly at the secondary panel, with so few students opting for virtual learning.

Superintendent of Learning, Katherine MacIver, said, “All courses will not be available. If enough students do not sign up for a specific course, they won’t run. There will be limitations in the virtual world.”

Byrne wondered if high school level technology or hospitality courses would be available virtually, something that appears unlikely.

MacIver added, “Students will not have the option for blended programming (a hybrid of both in-school and virtual learning).”

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