Archie Stouffer Elementary School (ASES) principal Dawn Sudsbury admitted reading levels among her students are “a bit alarming” in a presentation to TLDSB board trustees Nov. 23.

Since beginning her new role in September, Sudsbury has been working hard to create a new School Improvement Equity Plan (SIEP) at ASES after being surprised by some of the reports coming in from teachers regarding individual student reading levels.

“Currently, 15 per cent of our students in Grades 2 to 8 are reading at a grade equity level. Our goal, by June, is we want 100 per cent of our students to demonstrate growth in reading, which includes accuracy, fluency and comprehension. We have a goal to have 51 per cent of students reading at a grade level by June,” Sudsbury informed trustees.

“I can’t say I was shocked, but I found that 15 per cent was a bit alarming,” she added, after being asked to reflect on the numbers by trustee John Byrne.

Through her analysis, Sudsbury noted that some of the problems are different throughout the various age groups. Students from Grade 2 to 4, for example, are having a hard time looking at words and being able to properly sound them out, while some of the more junior and intermediate students are struggling with comprehension.

Improvement begins and ends in the classroom, Sudsbury said, and she’s been leaning on her teachers to implement individualized plans to try to get the best out of each of their students.

“Guided instruction is a great tool, and what that means is having instruction that is very specific for each student,” Sudsbury said. “All students can achieve … we just need to think a little differently to tap into their potential.”

Return to regular semesters

Director of education Wes Hahn said secondary schools have been given the go ahead to return to regular semesters starting in February.

“There are definitely benefits to moving back to a regular semester. Over the next week or so, we will be working with staff to iron a few things out and then hope to have an announcement about what we’re going to do,” Hahn said. “We’ll be making the best decision possible for students.”

He said there were a number of factors to consider before making the jump back, most notably how staff would deal with transitioning to a regular schedule from the quadmester system the board has been using since September.

While those conversations are at an early stage, Hahn believes teachers have shown how versatile they can be throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Every time we’ve gone to a different model we’ve been successful to the best of our abilities. Even when we were working in octomesters, which weren’t ideal, staff and administrators made that work,” Hahn said. “Staff have done an extraordinary job under extraordinary circumstances.”

Outbreak at Stuart Baker

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Stuart Baker Elementary School last week after two students were found to have contracted the virus.

TLDSB spokesperson Sinead Fegan says a positive case was identified at the school on Nov. 24 and a number of students were sent home to isolate. Then, on Nov. 26, the board was notified of a second positive case. Fegan said the two cases are linked, with bus No. 32, which transports students from SBES, J.D. Hodgson Elementary School and Haliburton Highlands Secondary School, identified as the source of the outbreak.

As of press time, no further cases had been confirmed. Fegan noted that some students were still isolating at home.

Director award

It was a busy meeting for Sudsbury, who was also presented with a director’s recognition award for her early work as principal at ASES. She was nominated for the award by vice principal Mike Gervais.

“Dawn is a highly passionate leader who prioritizes the need of all learners at her school, and makes plans to support their learning and enhance their educational experience. When staff and students walk into ASES, it’s clear they’re stepping into a community focused on student achievement and equity,” Hahn said.

Since her arrival, Sudsbury has worked with staff to streamline and enhance their teaching practices, and placed an increased focus on individualized learning for students.

Hahn noted her efforts have “created a strong team environment” at ASES, making it a great place for staff to teach and students to learn.