Haliburton-area trustee Gary Brohman asked if the board has enough supply staff to meet demand during the Oct. 12 Trillium Lakelands District School Board meeting.
Superintendent of human resources, Traci Hubbert, replied, “We do not have enough occasional staff available. We have shortages on a daily basis. We are advertising aggressively on many different platforms to try to recruit.”
She said it’s a struggle and challenge to find occasional staff when the board pays some employee groups only marginally more than fast food chains.
She added, “We have teachers on paper, but the reality is a very different thing right now.”
Hubbert said there are 285 teachers on the occasional teachers’ lists across the board. On a typical day, the board has “high double-digit absences” but classes still can’t be filled.
“Many occasional staff have taken leaves,” Hubbert said. “They don’t want to work at multiple locations during a pandemic and they don’t want to work with unvaccinated students. We also have retired teachers on the list who can only work 50 days and teachers who have taken long-term occasional contracts (to cover a teacher’s class for an extended time period) who still are counted on the list even though they are working.”
Hubbert praised the Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation for working cooperatively with the board to contact teachers on the list to see if they want to continue working as an occasional teacher.
Hubbert said she hopes to add an additional 45 teachers to the secondary list soon. She said right now, secondary schools are getting by with teachers covering other teachers’ absences as defined in their collective agreement, but those days are dwindling.
“We will have a problem at elementary covering teachers once board professional development begins,” Hubbert said. “We have a much worse time covering absences for educational assistants.”
Trustee Judy Saunders wanted clarification as to whether a teacher could just take up a spot on the supply list and not work.
“They can stay on the list and book a year of unpaid leave off,” Hubbert said. “To remain on the list (when not on a leave) they do need to work a minimum number (30) of days.”
Driver shortages still an issue
The board is “in much better shape” than some others when it comes to bus drivers, Supt. Tim Ellis said, thanks to drivers doubling up, or running two routes in both the morning and afternoon.
Ellis said the board is servicing its contracted routes.
He added that in conversation with local operators, they were hopeful to see a steadier stream of job applicants in early October.
“Very few applicants came through the doors of operators in September,” Ellis said. “So far in October there appear to be more folks looking for employment. This is not a typical year locally for drivers.”
In Haliburton, Ellis said “We have had issues in getting single routes operational and have had to double run buses. This requires students to wait at school up to an hour after dismissal to be picked up, creating additional supervision for principals. The issues in Haliburton are because of the region’s geographic diversity.”
Elementary school students are participating in inter-school athletics, Supt. Jay MacJanet told the meeting.
He said with the help of the local health units they have put safety protocols in place and cross-country and soccer have happened or are going to happen by the end of the month. Chess and reading clubs are also up and running.
Archie Stouffer Elementary School will be hosting a countywide soccer tournament Nov. 3.
Supt. Kim Williams, who oversees high schools, said band, choir, chess, Gay-Straight Alliance, comedy-improv, intramurals, Outer’s Club, Reach for the Top, robotics, student council and truth and reconciliation groups are all meeting.
Williams added girls’ basketball, crosscountry, field hockey, football, golf, girls’ rugby, tennis and boys’ volleyball are up and operating with badminton and swimming already gearing up for their seasons.
Board chair Bruce Reain wanted to know if district championships would be hosted by the Georgian Bay Secondary School Association and the Central Ontario Secondary School Association at the completion of regular season schedules. Williams did not have any information that would indicate that was not the case.
Trustee John Byrne asked if interested fans could watch outdoor sporting events from property adjoining schools and was told there was nothing the board could do to prevent that. The board is still not budging on allowing fans onto school property or into the building to watch friends and family compete, citing COVID-19 concerns.
HHSS enrolment up seven per cent
Enrolment is up seven per cent at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School.
It’s impacted class sizes, teacher hiring and bus route capacities, the board was told.
As of Oct. 4 across the board, there were 11,611 students, 550 more than predicted last June. Secondary numbers were 4,664, up 100 from June estimates.
Director of education, Wes Hahn, said, “We believe a number of these kids are from outside the area and they have either decided to stay with grandparents or they are remaining at the family cottage as their parents are working remotely.”
Hahn added that he “definitely knows” that some of the elementary numbers are very late registrations for kindergarten as parents waited for the last moment to commit because of COVID-19 and what school programming might look like.