Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) director of education Wes Hahn has reaffirmed the board’s commitment to delivering outdoor education programming to students in the 2022/23 school year.
As reported in the June 16 Highlander, TLDSB has made the decision to cancel programming at the Yearley Outdoor Education Centre, north of Huntsville. For over 40 years the site has served as the primary location for outdoor learning for students across the district.
It hasn’t been used since 2019, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic eliminating all outdoor education programming across TLDSB. Hahn indicated staff had identified several health and safety concerns that meant hosting students at the site was not an option for the coming year.
“Yes, there will be outdoor education. There was never not going to be outdoor education. We’re going to make sure it happens,” Hahn said. “With two years [of the Yearley site] not being in use, we have some things we’re concerned about.”
Suggestions that TLDSB was eliminating program at the site to either facilitate or sale or repurpose the space are wide of the mark, Hahn added, given that the board doesn’t own the property.
Outdoor education opportunities will be provided to students at an as-yet unknown location, Hahn confirmed.
He said, moving forward, Yearley would continue to be a part of TLDSB’s consideration for future programming. Looking long-term, he hopes that TLDSB will one day be in a position to construct a dedicated outdoor education space of its own.
Laid off EAs likely to be called back
Superintendent of human resources Tracy Hubbard has informed board trustees that many of the 77 CUPE employees recently laid off by the board will likely be called back at some point during the next school year.
Notices were handed out to 37 custodians, 33 educational assistants and seven office/ clerical staff earlier this month, leading to CUPE 997 president Bill Campbell appearing at a recent TLDSB board meeting to criticize the decision.
Providing more context to the situation, Hubbard said of the 37 custodians that were issued notices, 10 of them were layoffs of additional responsibility only.
“Based on a decrease in staffing, some schools will no longer have a lead hand position. But that staff member will still maintain a full-time permanent position,” Hubbard said. She added that the last time there was a mass layoff of custodians, in 2019, all people who hadn’t found alternate employment were called back into permanent positions midway through the 2019/20 school year.
Regarding EAs, Hubbard said of the 33 people issued with layoff notices, five have since had their layoff rescinded. With TLDSB set to introduce new ‘school support teams’ next year, Hubbard said the board are in a unique position where they expect to be hiring for new EAs later this summer.
“We actually have a greater FTE of positions to be filled by EAs than people who have received layoff notices,” Hubbard said.
The new school support team will be comprised of five teachers and four EAs who will be available board-wide to offer supports and instructional practices for students that require an extra level of support.
TLDSB celebrated the return of its Art Camp last month, with 278 students spending a week at Haliburton’s Camp White Pine.
The camp ran May 22 to 27 and saw students do a variety of arts-themed activities, from jewellery making and pottery to painting and drawing, dance and music. There were also different sports and waterbased activities for students who aren’t so art inclined.
Superintendent Kim Williams said the program’s return, the first since 2019, was a big deal for students, parents and teachers alike.
“We have had lots of positive feedback… The highlights were that the camp provided a sense of inclusion, a place where students felt safe to be themselves,” Williams said. “It was a priceless experience for many.”