/Q3 results show impact of pandemic on school board

Q3 results show impact of pandemic on school board

The following are briefs from the TLDSB virtual meeting on Sept.14.

By Katrina Boguski

There was no meeting over the summer so this was the first chance to present the third quarter results which ended May 31. The 2020-2021 third quarter (Q3) report was approved as presented with no questions. It stated, “The third quarter report as of May 31, 2021 reflects year to date expenditures of $ 178 million dollars or 81 per cent of the budgeted expenses. The expenditure amount is higher compared to the third quarter report submitted last year. It was reported that $167.7 million dollars or eighty percent (80 per cent) of the approved budget was expensed in the prior year.”
Supportive funding, related to COVID-19, caused an increase in estimated revenues. According to the treasurer’s report, “The total estimated revenues are expected to be six percent (6 per cent) higher than the previous year at $228.9 million dollars. This amount of increase comes primarily through increases in Priorities and Partnership funding (PPF). Much of this funding directly relates to COVID-19 supports.”
A number of issues that emerged as a result of the pandemic had financial implications. The report stated, “The financial pressures in this fiscal year to the Board are sick leave utilization, technology expenses and facilities related projects. While schools were closed for a significant portion of the year, there were emerging issues affecting sick leave. Mental health of staff appears to be a contributing factor identified in the sick leave utilization. Technology purchases to support the switch to remote learning also have put pressure on the board’s budget. Finally, Facilities Services, in supporting our system through keeping schools clean and safe, have exceeded their budget.”

Policies approved
The board approved a change to the travel policy. Normally the travel policy is presented annually. With the recommended changes, the wording of the policy was clarified and the procedure changed so that only a verbal report needs to be given.
The revised policy states, “The travel rate for Board members and employees using a personal automobile on Board business shall be set at the amounts laid out by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). In January of each year, a verbal report will be provided to the Board advising of the rate set by the CRA for the current calendar year.”
Superintendent of Human Resources, Traci Hubbert presented a report on HR-4200 Health and Safety Policy This to be reviewed annually. Hubbert reported that the policy had been reviewed and that there were no changes to it recommended. The committee of the whole accepted the recommendation to keep the policy as it stands.
Hubbert also presented a report on HR-4521 Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act Prevention and Resolution of Violence in the Workplace. This resolution also must be reviewed annually and was passed without any changes.

Bus driver shortage an ongoing problem
Tim Ellis, Superintendent of Business Services presented a report outlining several issues related to transportation. The written report stated, “In 2020-2021, Transportation Services had an operational budget of approximately $17,483,215 with recoveries from our partner boards of approximately $1,862,595. The Board contracted 321 vehicles to operate 712 morning and afternoon runs across the district; an area that encompasses more than 11,500 square km. Approximately 10,050 students were transported just over 37,000 km each day; the equivalent of travelling almost six round trips to the moon last year for total of over 4,551,000 km. Online learning and the opportunity to opt out of transportation in 2020-2021 resulted in fewer students using the service with fewer vehicles required compared to previous years. Regular routes operated 123 days rather than 187.”
The report went on to state, “The period from September 2020 to August 2021 was the second year of an additional two-year extension with the bus operators. All current operators accepted the terms and conditions to extend the contract for three additional years: from September 1, 2021, to August 31, 2024. This new agreement has a provision that by mutual agreement an additional two years extension may be entered into beyond 2024. The Board continues to be moderately affected by the province-wide bus driver shortage; however, operations have not been adversely affected because routes were covered by spare drivers and B-licensed office and mechanic staff.”
Most students are arriving at school without complications or unexpended delays; however, some circumstances are resulting in longer than ideal ride times. The report stated, “The majority of the students transported to school have school vehicle ride times meeting the Board objective of sixty minutes or less. There are exceptions where students have chosen to participate in a specific program and attend a school other than their normal home school. In these circumstances, or due to the sheer distance from the student’s home to a particular school, ride time in excess of sixty minutes may result.”
It went on to add, “Ride times are minimized whenever possible; the average ride time for TLDSB students in 2020-2021 remains at 24 minutes. Over 98 per cent of all transported TLDSB students have a ride time under 60 14/18 minutes with fewer than two per cent of transported TLDSB students riding over 60 minutes. The average distance TLDSB elementary students walked to a bus stop in 2020-2021 was less than the previous year at 210 meters. The TLDSB elementary walk to a bus stop distance is 800 metres. Secondary students, with a walk to bus stop distance of 1.6 km in policy, on average walked 390 meters to their assigned bus stop.”

Accidents and incidents
The report indicated, “There were 12 minor collisions and one more serious accident recorded in the district during the school year with no major injuries to any students. Bus Operators continue to be diligent in the delivery of defensive driving and accident-avoidance training as required in their contract with the Board.
To prevent further accidents, safety training continues to be important, “Driver safety training, including first aid, continues to be offered to all new drivers as well as refresher training for existing drivers with 66 drivers receiving training or re-certification in 2020-2021.”

Weather impact on cancellations
The report noted that, “During the winter of 2020, a similar number of weather systems affected operations as [in 2019]. Each of the three geographical areas of the Board experience varying winter weather and road conditions and are assessed independently for cancellations. Conditions varied slightly across the Board, resulting in Muskoka experiencing two full and one partial cancellation for inclement weather or road conditions (three in 2019), two cancellations in the City of Kawartha Lakes (three in 2019) and Haliburton had three cancellations (one in 2019).”
After the presentation of the transportation report, there were many questions and comments. One trustee noted that there were some students who were hesitant to join extracurricular activities such as sports due to lack of late buses. In response to this comment it was noted that the school district is looking at alternative means of transportation to facilitate students in this situation.