By Sue Tiffin
The following are brief reports of items discussed at the board of trustees meeting of Trillium Lakelands District School Board held virtually on May 11.
Paul Goldring, TLDSB superintendent of learning, presented numbers of suspensions and expulsions from the first semester to school board trustees at the May 11 committee of the whole board meeting.
In the first semester of school, there were 502 reported suspensions, resulting in 1,263 days being served by students. Of those 502 suspensions, Goldring said 11 were investigated and referred to mediation, meaning a student would receive a suspension as well as follow-up support; five were investigated and referred to an expulsion hearing, with all five resulting in expulsion. Of interest, said Goldring, there were 54 suspensions in remote schools, resulting in 120 days served, most of those suspensions related to conduct injurious to moral tone of the school.
When speculating why there was a significant decrease in numbers compared to last year’s first semester, when there were 850 suspensions compared to 502 suspensions, Goldring noted schools were closed in January with students learning at home; students have been co-horted which results, he said, in separation at recesses and in different times, and changes to the Education Act means this school year is the first in which suspensions are no longer used as a consequence for students in junior kindergarten to Grade 3. In the 2019-2020 school year, 145 of the 850 suspensions were issued to students in those grades.
This year there were 263 one-day suspensions compared to 349 one-day suspensions last year in the same time period, and also down this year were two-day suspensions, with 64 two-day suspensions being issued compared to 177 two-day suspensions last year.
“Again, definitely decreasing this year, I think there may be some reasons behind that,” said Goldring.
The top three reasons for suspensions were conduct injurious to moral tone of the school, breaches in code of conduct from school board policy, and fighting or violence.
Progress Pride flag to fly for month of June
In honour of Pride month, the Progress Pride flag will be raised at the Muskoka Education Centre and Lindsay Education Centre for the month of June.
“Since 2012, TLDSB has promoted positive space as one of many opportunities for system learning under the umbrella of Ontario’s equity and inclusive education strategy,” said Jennifer Johnston, superintendent of learning. “There are students, staff, parents and guardians in our school communities who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, plus. The goal of positive space has always been to create and identify safer inclusive spaces for LGBTQ+ communities within TLDSB.”
Johnston said the flag would be raised “as a symbol of respect and celebration of the LGBT+ community.”
Through consultation with student trustees Ryder Lytle and Kaylee Kelly, who Johnston said reached out to other students with lived experience and allies for input, the Progress Pride flag was selected as the variation of the rainbow flag to be raised this year. The Progress Pride flag expands upon the original rainbow Pride flag. Designed by Daniel Quasar in 2018, the flag includes a design with brown and black stripes to represent people of colour, blue, pink and white stripes which incorporate the colour of the trans flag, and different directions of lines representing the intersectionality between racialised identities, gender identity alongside sexuality, which is represented by the rainbow colours.
“We know that our decision to fly the Progress Pride flag is an important step in making visible TLDSB’s commitment to equity and inclusion, however, our work will be ongoing,” said Johnston. “Long-term our equity task force and working group are continuing to work on developing our equity action plan through the fall of 2021. And short-term with Pride month in mind, communications services will be supporting system and community messaging to grow an understanding of our ongoing commitment to creating inclusive environments, our understanding of culture and beliefs, and identity of our staff and students.”
“We’re so ecstatic to see that the Progress Pride flag will be raised at the education centre and we’re hoping to see that, as the years go on, that TLDSB becomes even more inclusive … to recognize LGBTQ+ students and staff,” said Kelly. “This is just absolutely amazing.”
School board planning for September
Director Wes Hahn noted the budget had been released by the ministry last week, and that the planning process for the upcoming school year had begun.
The ministry has directed that the school board register students in brick and mortar school, and also offer Learn At Home in the next school year. Cohorting will be in place again beginning in September, though Hahn said it may not be as strict or intensive and PPE will be required as well as cleaning protocols will still be in place.
“Obviously to aim for in-person learning is great but we will have to be ready to move or pivot to online, that will still be the recommendation, the directive from the ministry, to do that,” said Hahn.
June 1 will be the earliest in a timeline for registration for parents to consider a Learn at Home option for their child, though Hahn said a window into June would be available. While a considerable number of families are willing to switch back to brick and mortar schools, many will choose Learn at Home, said Hahn.
“I think it’s important to know what we know now about how the ministry is going to support our models moving forward, is it’s not going to look the same,” he said. “It won’t look like it does now, for many reasons. One due to the funding, even though we have received some funding, it’s not to the same degree that we did at the beginning of this year, that will not exist. Again, the ministry is hoping, at some point in time, that we could obviously have our students back in person and that may look very different come January. It may look very different throughout the course of the year. We have to be ready to move and switch and pivot and the number of students that are probably going to be choosing our Learn at Home situation certainly won’t be as high as it was at the beginning of this year so lots of factors will dictate how we offer and what we offer to parents moving forward.”
Learn At Home will still be a synchronous model, as per ministry directive. This year, he said, parents will not be able to move their kids in and out of Learn at Home or bricks and mortar school throughout the year.
“It’s really important we not do the switching back and forth, once we do decide on our models, parents will have to choose a model and that will be the model that they stick with for the first of the year,” he said. “It’s just not possible in the situation moving forward for us to be able to staff it moving back and forth, it’s just not possible. So that’s a tough decision for parents, we realize that, but one that we want to make very clear at the beginning so they understand that that’s what we’re going to be doing moving forward.”
He said more information about the models for the next school year would be presented as they were available.
“From now until the end of June there is a lot of work to be done,” said Hahn.
Staff vaccinations becoming available
Beginning May 6, vaccine appointments did open up for all educational staff that come into contact with students, said Hahn.
“It’s looking positive, more vaccines are entering the province, entering into the public health units, so that we can continue to get our staff vaccinated,” said Hahn. “Looking at the landscape as we look toward September … we see obviously most of our staff if not all of them vaccinated. We see a community increase in vaccinations, most people possibly with their second vaccination, and even a potential for students to be vaccinated at some point in time. It’s going to look very different in August then it does right now, and I think that’s important for the decisions parents have to make regarding Learn At Home or coming back into bricks and mortar.”
The second last board meeting of the 2020-2021 school year will take place on May 25 at 6:30, virtually. Visit tldsb.ca for more information.