When students across Haliburton County return to school Sept. 6 they will do so in a “normal” fashion, with most COVID-19 safety protocols eliminated. School start-up was the main point of discussion as Trillium Lakelands District School Board trustees gathered Aug. 30, with director of education Wes Hahn saying there’s a lot of hope and optimism surrounding the 2022/23 school year.
“This is what we have been waiting for… we’ve been setting up to get back into action in schools. We are happy to have a regular start-up for staff and students,” Hahn said. Masking will no longer be required on school property, while protocols around cohorting and social distancing have also been removed.
Shared spaces such as libraries, tech labs, theatres and music rooms can be fully utilized, while extra-curriculars and programs across grades, such as the reading buddies initiative, will also return. Limitations on in-person gatherings and assemblies has also been removed. COVID screening will remain in place for now, with students asked to stay home if they’re feeling unwell.
“There will probably be some different processes around the number of days they should stay away, or on how to report [an illness], but we are still working on that. We’ll let parents know with some communication that will go out before school starts,” Hahn said.
“If we run into the same situations as last year, where particular illnesses impacted [a specific grade], we’ll look into class closures, but we don’t expect to have to go that far this year,” he added.
More stringent cleaning protocols introduced during the pandemic will continue, while schools will also use HEPA filter systems installed last year.
Most students will be physically back in the classroom this year, with only 88 elementary students board-wide registered for virtual learning. There will be no virtual learning for secondary students.
Hahn said there will be an increased focus on mental health and wellbeing. “Some students are feeling a high sense of anxiety coming into the system after the pandemic. That’s not a surprise for us, and is something we need to deal with,” Hahn said. “We want people to feel comfortable and confident in our system as we start up… So, there will be help provided for any students who are struggling.”
Outdoor education coming back Outdoor education programming will return to TLDSB this school year. There was controversy in the spring when the board announced it would be suspending operations at the Yearley Outdoor Education Centre, citing several safety concerns with the property.
Students across TLDSB have been visiting Yearley for more than 50 years. The site has been closed for two years, with outdoor education cancelled throughout the pandemic. Superintendent Paul Goldring announced this week that TLDSB had signed an agreement with Camp Muskoka to provide an overnight outdoor education experience for all Grade 6 students this year. The cost for students to attend will be $30.
Looking long-term, Goldring said staff were investigating whether Yearley could be upgraded to meet current standards. If that’s not possible, other camp sites across the district will be considered to serve as a permanent home for TLDSB outdoor education programming in the future.