Grandfather wants more invested in the education of his grandchildren

News 100 greenBy Ray Rivers

September 18th, 2020

MOUNTSBERG, ON

 

These are scary times especially if you are grandparents. When it comes to educating our youth, no one should doubt that school boards, teachers and maintenance staff are doing the best they can in the circumstances. But then nobody can say the schools are as safe as they could be – or used to be before the pandemic hit us. The circumstances have changed.

Seven months have passed since the schools were shut down as part of the provincial COVID-19 lock-down. The Premier warned us that this was not going away, that we’d have to change how we do things if we are to avoid getting infected. So what about the children? Aside from some widening of the aisles between students’ desks very little seems to have changed.

Yes, there are the masks and the single cohorts and the managed crowd control, coming and going. But the students, for the most part, are still captive and crowded within their inadequately ventilated classroom environment for most of their day – another petrie dish for the virus and another opportunity for viral transmission.

Leo at desk

Leo taking part in a class exercise

So when my wife and I had heard that school would be returning pretty much business-as-usual, we reached out to the parents of our youngest grandchildren and offered to help with their children’s grade 2 and 4 French immersion schooling. There are in excess of 20,000 children who receive homeschooling every year in Ontario, so we’d be in good company, we thought.

Fortunately the education ministry had announced that parents could opt out of sending their children back to the classroom and engage in their program of online or distance learning instead. Students would pretty much get their regular course load but learn at home rather than trucking off to school. The Halton Board sent out requests to parents asking them to opt for the option of their choice.

Teachers, apparently some also teaching regular classes, would appear online through the application of Google online conferencing tools, mainly Google Meet and Google Classroom. Teachers use various media to assist in their online teaching and students are even invited to submit contributions, such as, photos.

There are three teaching blocks of 100 minutes each covering the 8:45 am to 3:05 pm day, and duplicating the essence of what would be learned in a regular classroom. Students may even be given homework assignments. And the online platform allows students to see their teacher as well a number of fellow students, making the experience feel a little less remote.

When we undertook to invite the children to our house we expected that we would be heavily involved in preparing classes. Both of us do have some pedagogical training. As it turns out our role is little more than supervision and coaching as the teachers do the heavy lifting of bringing the curriculum to life on the small screen.

How is it going? Well there was some minor stumbling at the beginning, something one should expect with the introduction of this new way of conducting regular classroom instruction. But the students appear to be excited about what they are doing. And the teachers, in our experience, have been wonderful, clearly competent, enthusiastic and responsive to the needs of the students and their coaches.

While being able to conduct regular classes online sounds pretty amazing, the truth is the technology is still not as user friendly as it could be. But the biggest problem is the size of the online classes. There are close to thirty students in each of the children’s classes.

Bea at work

Bea doing math.

It is impossible to practically see all of one’s classmates on a computer screen. And so it is a difficult for the teacher to stay on top of what everyone is doing. And that makes it a huge challenge for effective immersion language training, for example.

Going through the roster of students can take an inordinate amount of time and that can be really boring to those waiting their turn. Students can lose interest and drift off, even with the best of teachers. And that is the big fear – that students will lose interest, shut down, and their performance will reflect that failing.

This is the same problem one sees in over overcrowded regular classrooms only magnified by the remote learning complication. The solution is obvious – hire more teachers for distance learning. In a country where the unemployment rate is currently above 10% and governments are spilling money like rain water, you’d think this was more than possible.

Of course teachers need some training and a program to follow but this is not rocket science – unless they actually are teaching rocket science. And of course experience counts. But our children are the future, why wouldn’t we want to invest more in their education?

Distance Learning

Online Learning

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers usually writes about politics and the environment.  His grandchildren are doing elementary school as distant learners.

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Government puts out an interactive self-assessment application - will it make a difference?

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

September 16th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The province is doing everything they can to get people to use the preventative measure they know work to slow down the spread of the Covid19.

Doug Ford MAr 17

Premier does a media event almost daily – begging – beseeching the public to observe the social distancing rules. But the number of new infections is climbing – daily.

The Premier is his now almost daily web cast where he brings people up to data on what is happening; what they province is doing and putting critical data into the public realm.

He often beseeches, beg the public to be careful and cautious.

A significant part of the public isn’t listening all that well.

Today the province announced a new interactive self-screening tool. It is direct and the province wants people to use it every day.

CLICK HERE to access the app.

That isn’t likely to happen – the questions asked are pretty fundamental and we suspect that after a few days the people that need to hear the message and pay attention will be the first to get bored and stop doing the self-assessment.

Go to school

 

At the risk of being a cynic this Premier might have to announce on a Thursday morning that come Friday at noon all bars and places where people gather for non-essential purposes are closed until the following Monday.

Or perhaps a curfew to make the point. British Columbia put a curfew in place.

The number of new infections are still climbing. At some point these infections will work their way into the school system.

The public reaction will not be pretty.

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Council likes the idea of a Deep Energy Retrofit Program for the city - approved $182,000 for year 1

News 100 greenBy Pepper Parr

September 15th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

This is a long article.  If the Deep Energy Retrofit pilot project is a success – the results will be houses that are retrofitted and become low carbon generators which will add significant value to the property.

The recommendation to the Standing Committee was to approve a budget of $182,000 for year one of a project that has the potential to have 80% of the residential homes in the city retrofit by 2051.

The report presented was pretty dry – the conversation and debate was anything but dry – but it didn’t get unanimous support.

If the project gets approved at Council at the end of the month it will mean another raid on a Reserve Fund – this time it would be the Tax Rate Stabilization account.

What the Standing Committee on Environment, Infrastructure and Community Services Committee (EICS) was doing was delivering on one of the election campaign promises.

Climate emergency graphicEarly in their term of office the Mayor led her council to declaring a Climate Change Emergency.

There was no stopping them once that declaration was cast in stone.

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman said, after more than an hour of debate that this is “exactly the right approach. We need a guide – approve this plan – we will find the dollars.

“We will solve the Covid problem – climate change is what is going to kill us all.”

The City of Burlington has set a target for the community to be net carbon zero by 2050. The development and implementation of a deep energy efficiency retrofit program for homes is necessary to achieve the low carbon scenario described in the Climate Action Plan for Burlington.
On July 6th, 2020, staff reported to the EI&CS Committee with background information and options to deliver a residential deep energy retrofit program in Burlington.

The initial implementation of the Deep Energy Retrofit Program including but not limited to a scale-able home owner pilot project, research on resident take up and commitment, homeowner technical support to energy retrofit including the involvement of Burlington Enterprises Corp, and that staff report back with any financial implications of the pilot project.

Scale-able Pilot Project:
Staff recommend engaging the Centre for Climate Change Management (CCCM) at Mohawk College and the Bay Area Climate Change Council (BACCC) to develop and implement a scale-able home owner pilot project.

The City has an existing partnership with the City of Hamilton and Mohawk College to accelerate action on climate change through the CCCM and BACCC. Both cities recently contributed financially to support the administration of BACCC.

The CCCM is embarking on the development of a business plan for a Low-Rise Home Energy Retrofit Delivery Program for the region of Hamilton-Burlington on behalf of BACCC, with the following objectives:

• identify the Centre’s core services to provide to homeowners
• develop a financially feasible business model for the program
• recommend a governance structure to promote transparency and accountability
• define program eligibility criteria, as well as monitoring and evaluations frameworks
• identify opportunities to scale and transfer solutions (e.g. integration with Brant or other adjacent regions, supporting multi-unit residential retrofits)
• investigate whether outreach and education services should be part of the Centre’s core mandate.

As city staff reviewed the CCCM’s proposal and objectives, it became clear that there is an opportunity and benefit to join forces with the CCCM to expand the scope of this work.

The CCCM can act as the project manager with financial investment from Burlington to develop and deliver a scale-able pilot program for a home energy efficiency retrofit project. The additional work to be managed for the City of Burlington will include:

Deep energy house graphic

What makes a home energy efficient?

additional home energy efficiency audits
market research
an initial survey of a scientific random sample of homeowners in Burlington to determine market readiness, barriers and demand for incentives
focus groups following the process to complete more in-depth analysis of homeowners’ experience following completion of a home energy audit and implementation of measures
education – engage organizations such as Humber College and the Clean Air Partnership to deliver workshops and online sessions to residents on deep home energy efficiency retrofits
marketing – promoting current opportunities and benefits to homeowners interested in completing home energy efficiency retrofits.

What can the city expect to get in a year for $182,000?

Kate Flynn, Acting Director, Centre for Climate Change Management at Mohawk pitched the concept to Council.

The Centre for Climate Change Management (CCCM) is an applied research arm of Mohawk College.  Their role is to help the Hamilton-Burlington transition to a thriving low-carbon economy.

They do this by catalyzing multi-sector collaborations with industry, community and government.

They bring collaborators together to work on designing and implementing solutions that are often multi-faceted and require industry, community, and government support.

Their approach is to co-design human centered solutions that actually address the systemic issues of why something isn’t currently working.

In 2018 the Cities of Hamilton and Burlington commissioned a comprehensive greenhouse gas inventory. One of the main conclusions of that greenhouse gas inventory was that a home energy retrofit program would be one of the best opportunities for Hamilton and Burlington to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

Essentially, a HERO – Home Energy Renovation Opportunity is one the most important tools to help Burlington meet its 2050 goals to be a thriving carbon neutral community.

Deep Energy - Supporting graphicThe CCCC works as an applied research arm, and as an incubator is that provides additional flexibility, capacity and expertise.

They want to co-design a project that meets Burlington residents’ needs.  Through focus groups and home energy audits, we’d engage Burlington homeowners, providing them with the audit report, then asking them what works for them and their needs.

They conclude that given the number and diversity of homes in Burlington, one size will not fill all – the need is to design a program that supports a diversity of implementable solutions.

The hope is that one day, we could develop “turn key” solutions – package deals for certain kinds of homes that are cost effective and minimize disruption.

And finally, we know the battle will not be on establishing a program – the battle will be uptake.

Right now, doing a home energy retrofit is a very difficult thing for homeowners to navigate. We need to make it easy and accessible through the creation of a Home Delivery Retrofit Centre.

The goal at the CCCM is to create programs that effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support the local economy, so we keep residents’ interests at the heart of what we do.

We also want to flow resources and support for community organizations that are already DOING some of this work like educating homeowners, talking to people in the streets, and engaging people – we know that’s an essential piece of this and we want to activate current networks and amplify the great work local organizations are doing to do that outreach and engagement.

Deep Energy report coverWe also want to design a truly scalable solution – so one that can support the growing market and changing consumer needs, but also can expand to support access, equity and heritage homes.

As part of our partnership with the Cities, we act as the administrative and physical home of the Council but they are an independent group.

Not everyone was onside for a program that would make major changes in the city’s carbon footprint and run by a community college in Hamilton.

Councillor Stolte was more interested in a “made in Burlington” solution and Councillor Bentivegna wanted more detail and what this pilot project was going to cost in its second year.

Councillor Nisan pointed out that “we all supported climate change – and now we are fussed about $300,000. There will be a reward.

The CCCM views this as an opportunity to expand the scope, where the experience and results of the partnership with Burlington will provide additional data and information to support the business plan for a Home Energy Retrofit Delivery Centre.

Project Deliverables
The CCCM proposes the following work to be completed within a year:

• Business plan for a Hamilton-Burlington Retrofits Delivery Centre for Hamilton- Burlington region
• Report on implementation plan
• Results on a study of home energy audits in Hamilton and Burlington, in which the project team identifies common consumer needs to verify delivery centre’s core services (additional energy audits will be completed in Burlington)
• Market research for Burlington – survey of homeowners and focus groups
• Outreach & education initiatives for Burlington residents

The goal is to incubate the Delivery Centre so that it can eventually grow to become its own organization or partner with another organization where synergies exist. The Centre will provide the support and knowledge needed by homeowners, ensuring the energy retrofit process can be convenient, easy to access and effective.

Project Management
The project will be managed by the CCCM, an applied research division of the College, aimed at supporting the Hamilton-Burlington Region’s transition to a low carbon economy.

Project Advisory Committee
For 2020-22, the Bay Area Climate Change Council has identified the acceleration of a home energy efficiency retrofit program as one of its priority areas of focus. As such, the Bay Area Climate Change Council’s Implementation Team on Home Energy Retrofits will act as a project advisory committee. The Implementation Team will meet monthly to provide project feedback and guidance. This group will comprise of 8-10 stakeholders from across the home energy retrofit ecosystem in Hamilton-Burlington.

Municipal Consortium in Ontario
The Clean Air Partnership is continuing discussions with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) to develop a municipal consortium in Ontario to support home energy efficiency retrofits.

There is talk about a loan program that would be financed by the municipalities.
The collaboration could take many forms from assignment of project leadership for a set of tools or in other cases it may be advantageous to have group development. Common platform pieces could include:

Deep energy - windows

Window upgrades are critical to achieving a low carbon foot print.

• One stop web site
• Program marketing materials
• Program outreach materials to key stakeholders (homeowners, realtors, contractors)
• Applications forms
• Client management system
• Client supports/resources
• Contractor supports/resources
• Better understanding how to handle and what are the differences in needs/capacity across municipalities with regards to these common platform pieces.

Staff will continue to monitor progress on this collaborative initiative and engage in discussions to determine the best approach for Burlington.

Options Considered
Staff assessed creating a scale-able home energy efficiency retrofit pilot program with in-house resources, however, the benefits of working with an external community-based organization outweighed that option. The CCCM can be flexible in managing the development of this program, has access to expertise within the college, has the ability to reach the community through its networks and, will receive additional guidance and support from the Bay Area Climate Change Council and

Implementation Team.
Mohawk College has a positive reputation for being a leader in applied research and skills training, an important element of scaling up the trades, skills and knowledge to support energy efficient building retrofits in the Burlington and Hamilton communities.

Total Financial Impact
Burlington’s total budget share for year one is $182,000 and year two $103,500. Year one includes one-time funding to develop the business plan and complete market research, including a survey and focus group.

The CCCM has applied to The Atmospheric Fund (TAF) for its share of funding of $32,800 for year one.

Source of Funding
Staff recommend the use of the city’s Tax Rate Stabilization Reserve Fund (TRSRF) for the one-time funding of $182,000 to partner with CCCM for development of a business plan, pilot project and associated market research costs.

As of June 30, 2020 the balance in the city’s tax rate $4.72 million net of commitments. It is important to note, that the city is projecting a year end shortfall as a result of Covid-19. Therefore, the TRSRF will not be replenished at year end with any retained savings, and furthermore, it is possible that the balance may be further drawn upon based on the year end forecasted shortfall.

Background links:

Burlington’s Climate Change Emergency declaration.

Green house gas emissions report

 

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HDSB reports two school related covid infections - meanwhile things at Charles Best run very smoothly.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

September 14th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

The report that two students were found to be infected was incorrect.  Two people were found to be infected – they were not in classroom at the time – they had yet to start school.

Student with parent - getting saniitized and checked iin Sept 14

Parents walks her son up to the entrance at Charles Best

It was not an auspicious start.

First day back at school and the Halton District School Board reports a student at Brant Hills with a COVID infection.

In a brief statement on the Board’s COVID-19 Advisory Committee page they report that a positive test was recorded at the Brant public school in Burlington and the Garth Webb Secondary School in Oakville.

The COVID-19 Advisory Committee provides the number of positive COVID-19 cases that are connected to schools. For all confirmed cases, families and staff at the school will be notified by letter. Halton Region Public Health will contact any close contacts directly.

The web site page does point out that: “ A positive case at a school does not mean the individual was exposed to COVID-19 at the school.

They may have been exposed somewhere else in the community. The identity of the individual is protected by privacy legislation and will not be shared.

Neither school will be closing nor will any classrooms/cohorts be closed.

This morning students at Charles Best Public School arrived by car, by bus and some walked.

Best kjids off bus Sept 14

Students get off school bus and head for their classrooms – all wearing masks.

The start of the day was orderly with every student sanitized and let into the school.

Security was tight with principal Paul Thomson walking the perimeter of the school property in a safety vest and a walky-talky on his hip.

School buses arrived, students hopped out while small groups of parents, not wearing masks, chatted with each other.

It was a nice fall day and while things were a little edgy – the day got off to a good start.

Best Sept 14 - 2

Children on the right are keeping their social distance from people walking along the pathway.

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Schools throughout the Region ready for students to return - 20% have decided not to do so

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

September 12th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

All the angst, all the concern and even the worry on the part of parents gets faced Monday morning as those who have decided to have their children attend school send them out the door Monday morning – and hope that they are safe.

The educators – all the way from the Director of Education and the classroom teachers – even the custodial people – are anxious.

What happens when someone becomes infected?

There are rules and protocols galore out there to deal with the child that has a temperature or a runnier than usual nose.

Charles Best sign

The challenge is to stay positive.

There will be situations where someone will over react. And there will be situations where a situation should have gotten a closer look.

Everyone is on pins and needles.

Tonnes of money has been thrown at this problem. Schools have enough PPE to last them through to Christmas.

There are all kinds of “what if” questions.

Basically if there is a child that is not well – the child gets sent home.

The Regional Public Health Unit is all over this issue. If a child Is sent home – does the class get shut down?

What has to happen for a school to be closed?

Hand sanitizer replaces reception

Hand sanitizer and a sign in sheet at the only entrance to the school.

This will fall to the principal along with the Superintendent who oversees health issues and the Public Health Unit.  Every school has to post a notice on the school web site reporting that someone at the school has been diagnosed as infected.

The province has a reporting system that will detail where the infections were found and how many.

The communications lines will be wide open.

One should feel sorry for the students who sneezes twice in a row – they will be all over the kid.

Everyone at a responsible level is saying “there will be infected people who are identified as infected people. Some of them will be teachers – we have already heard of infected teachers and how the class they were teaching was closed.

Expect the number of infected people to rise. The big question is – how high might it rise and at what point does the province decide that schools have to be closed and everyone gets taught online.

Last week Paul Thomson, principal at Charles Best Public School, met with parents in an outdoor session with everyone six feet apart. “They asked questions” he said “and I gave them the information I had.”

No visitors sign

Entrance to all the schools will be strictly controlled. Parents will not be permitted to take a child into the school. They get left at the door where teachers greet them.

Thomson is a believer in keeping people informed and being open, direct and honest.

Monday morning the kids troop into the school. The hand sanitizer is just inside the the front door; teachers in full PPE will be there to greet the children.

Everyone will be trying to focus on the educating of the children in their care.

Whatever in the way of the covid virus gets into a school we know that someone brought it into the school.  The person who brought it into the school picked it up from someone else.  We are the people who pass this virus on to others.  If we keep a safe distance, wear our face masks and wash our hands regularly we will be safer.

The understanding at this point is that the virus needs to replicate itself in people.  By staying apart that virus can’t replicate.

Everyone believes that there will be a virus and that that will save us all.  Hope does spring eternal doesn’t it.

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Daily Covid in the Schools information available to parents and the general public

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

September 11th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Saying that “The Premier and our government made a promise to parents, that we would ensure that they would have access to the same information that we have.” the province created a web site that will report on the most up-to-date COVID-19 information available, including a summary of cases in schools and licensed child care centres and agencies.

If a COVID-19 case is confirmed at a school it will be posted to the web site.  Data is current as of 2:00 pm the previous day.

Click HERE for the web site.

Set out below is what one of the pages on the web site looks like.

 

Covid cases school report

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Reader questions the appointment of new vice principals at public schools - the appointments were not new - they were re-locations.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

September 10th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Several days ago we received a letter with no return address. There was a single piece of paper with five paragraphs with which the writer explained that she had learned of 19 new vice principals being appointed at the Halton District School Board.

The full letter went as follows:

As a teacher I am sending this note anonymously for obvious reasons – but you might want to ask some tough questions publicly.

As you are aware, additional spending has been required by the HDSB to prepare schools for re-opening during the pandemic and money is tight.

However, on August 26th, this board announced 19 new vice principal appointments) note these were not replacements – new appointments) to oversee in several schools “Virtual Schools”. Vice principals are not cheap and this money could have been spent further reducing class sizes in some of the more high risk locations, particularly in Oakville.

While I understand that a significant (perhaps up to 20%) of Halton students have chosen to learn from home, this was accomplished in the spring for three months without any bureaucratic oversight. And I didn’t notice any shortcomings that more administrators will solve.

These appointments do underscore a philosophy in the administration on Guelph Line that nothing good happens without Board oversight. Sadly, this is at polar opposites from reality.

grebenc 3

HDSB Trustee Chair Andrea Grebenc

We first communicated with the Chair of the Board of trustees, Andrea Grebenc, who answered our questions. She said there were just two new appointments. We asked for a little clarification at which point Grebenc, correctly we believe, said this was an operations matter.

We then put ourselves in touch with Director of Education Stuart Miller, who got back to us very very quickly saying:

Miller prep at Central

Director of Education Stuart Miller

As you know we created 4 Virtual schools (3 elementary and 1 secondary). They all needed administrators as they are now our biggest schools (16,000 students).

Also because of the number of students who chose distance learning, it meant the number of administrators required for schools in which they lost students to distance learning is not the same. Many schools became smaller and therefore could afford to lose an administrator (P/VP). Those were the ones redeployed.

There was one new appointment and that is because we had a late retirement of a Principal, the rest were not new assignments.

To our anonymous reader – don’t think there is any misbehavior here. The information you refer to does not appear to exist. If you have something that we haven’t managed to dig up – please send it along, and we will follow up.

I think you may have been misled or misinformed.  You did the right thing – you brought the concern forward so that questions could be asked.

At this point it looks to us that the board administration is scrambling to meet a dynamic and very fluid situation.

Our only comment is that 17 administrators for four virtual schools looks a little thick but the administrators are professionals and we have to trust them to do what they think is needed.  Better to have too many than not enough.

They are doing an impossible job in tough times.

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City will hold 5th Telephone Town Hall September 23rd

eventsorange 100x100By Staff

September 9th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The City is going to host a fifth Telephone Town Hall on September 23rd that will focus on COVID-19 as we head into the fall season.

The event will be between 7:00 and 8:00 pm when information will be shared and questions answered.

These events have been very useful – it serves as a place for people to go when looking for answers and gives the city a sense as to where the concerns are.

That the Director of Education for both the Catholic and the Public Boards of Education are taking part suggests where the serious concerns are.

The Mayor will host the event; taking part with her are:

Tim Commisso, City Manager at the City of Burlington
Pat Daly, Director of Education at Halton Catholic District School Board
Stuart Miller, Director of Education at Halton District School Board
Eric Vandewall, President and Chief Executive Officer at Joseph Brant Hospital
Mary Battaglia, Director of Roads, Parks and Forestry, City of Burlington
Denise Beard, Manager of Community Development, City of Burlington
Allan Magi, Executive Director of Environment, Infrastructure and Community Services, City of Burlington
Rory Nisan, Ward 3 City and Regional Councillor

Members of Burlington City Council will be present and listening.

How to Participate
Residents who would like to participate in the town hall can do so in the following ways:

1. Register in advance: Burlington residential phone numbers will be randomly selected to be part of the telephone town hall. Residents who would like to be added to the telephone call list can email getinvolved@burlington.ca by the end of the day on Sept. 22.
Please note: if you registered for any of the previous town halls (held on March 26, April 14, June 4 or July 16), you are not required to register your phone number again. To remove a name from the call list, email getinvolved@burlington.ca by the end of the day on Sept. 22.

2. Join by telephone: Anyone who does not receive a telephone invitation can call 1-800-779-0904 just before 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 23 to join the town hall. For those individuals calling in, please be advised more than one attempt may be required due to the high volume of traffic on the phone lines. If the first call does not connect, please hang up and dial the 1-800 number again.

Once the call begins, a moderator will provide participants with instructions for how to submit their questions to the leadership panel.

Many of the questions not answered during the call will be posted, with answers, to the City’s website at burlington.ca/townhall, along with an audio file and full transcript of the call after Sept. 23.

 

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Public school board trustees hold their session in the Board room - six trustees take part.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

September 8th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It started as 1-1 conversations that Andrea Grebenc had with trustees on the virtual meetings the Halton District School Board was holding.
Grebenc thought it was time to hold meetings that took place in the Board room and not have all the participants communicating from their keyboards and cameras.

Grebenc frown

The technology at the School Board Board Room was at times not up to the demands of a meeting that was live and local for some and virtual for others – they made it work.

Once she had canvassed the 13 trustees she met with Director of Education Stuart Miller to look into the possibility of moving back into the Board room.

The question was brought up at an Agenda Review meeting early in August.

“We had to find out if public health regulations would allow us back into the building and how it would restrict us.

“Once we received guidelines from staff and reviewed them, we had a short conversation about it in private session.  That resulted in  the outline of a plan to see about moving forward. The limitations,  physically and technologically, were known.  I then posted a sign-up sheet for the first regular board meeting on September 2.”

Roche xx

Trustee Rocha

Trustees Gerrits, Gray, Rocha, Shuttleworth, Vice Chair Ehl Harrison and Grebenc were there as well as Director Miller.

“We were limited by the board room technology in the room right now as it is hardwired to our desks (which are not even a metre apart. The two cameras would not be able to capture everyone because of the social distancing.

“We settled on six as the maximum number of Trustees to take part.”

However after the first run Grebenc is looking at being in the Board room a little differently.

“There were some problems – but after last week’s pilot, that may be reduced as we had some difficulties with feedback and mics not working properly.

“Bringing the Board room up to the different technical standard was not something we wanted to do. The limited resources (yes, we spend a lot of money – but there is never enough to go around) result in our deciding not to funnel  resources from the classrooms and central administration to expedite the technology changes needed for 13 people (11 Trustees & 2 Student Trustees) who are still able to meet and complete their work online. We felt it was  more important to have the whole system focused on student and staff safety and the learning environments.

grebenc 3

Ear buds were driving her frantic – the six screen she had to keep an eye on made it a busy meeting.

“No worries – we will get there – it is just not a top priority – nor should it be.

“We are following the public health guidelines that were created for the board office. Facilities staff have measured out and designated places we are able to sit to meet the guidelines. There is hand sanitizer available in several places and masks as well. Washrooms are now single person. There are arrows directing us around, etc.

“Personally, I have to say that my set-up at home was a lot easier as I had my three monitors to work with (2 personally owned monitors and my board laptop) and didn’t have to wear the truly uncomfortable (verging on painful) earbuds.

“There are quite a number of screens that I need to use for the meeting to run smoothly:

voting screen,
voting responses,
request to speak form,
speaker’s list,
the google meet screen itself for the meeting,
email for emergency notifications (when someone is having technical issues like getting kicked off.

“The regulation is still in place that would allow the board meetings to happen remotely, so if we have to, we can function completely at a distance again. We are going to be in the board room again on the 16th and probably every meeting going forward.

Gray

Trustee Gray

“As for a public gallery, no. At this time, we are not opening the gallery to the public, but are continuing to live-stream and record board meetings as usual. We do not have any broadcast of the Google meeting available in the board room due to sound feedback issues, so the public would have to sit in the room with earphones watching on a personal device to have access to what everyone is saying – people might as well be doing that at home as there is nothing special going on in the room itself.

“We don’t even talk amongst ourselves in the room because we have to watch our screens and wear the earbuds to hear what is going on.

“We don’t have barriers between us physically in the room, but it sure feels that way socially.”

What is really interesting is that it was the Board of Education that was the first to edge forward a little bit and have at least some of the trustees in the room while conducting public business.

If Burlington city council wanted to come out of their closet as it were they could do so easily – there are just seven members of Council – there are 13 trustees plus two student trustees.
.

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HDSB may have to pull as much as $8 million from the Reserve accounts.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

September 7th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

HDSB may have to pull as much as $8 million from the Reserve accounts. Director is OK with that – no sense yet as to how the trustees are going to react.

The Halton District School Board trustees were given a close and disturbing look at just how big the COVID-19 financial hole was going to be. It was not a pretty picture.

financia updated

 

The financial story for the Halton District School Board is far from complete.  The $12.4 million in COVID funding came from the provincial and federal government.  The drill down on what those funds are going to be used for is set out in the table below.

funding

Here is how you spend $12.4 million.

 

covid exp

The above are expenses the board expects to incur when schools open on the -14th

The spending priorities as the Board sees them at this point are shown in the table below.   There are a tasks that still have to be fully costed – at this point they are at $9.6 million

spending prioities

The Board has $40 million in reserves.  Those funds are set aside for specific projects and a source of funds for unexpected situations.  The COVID-19 virus was one of those.  The Board is going to have to pull about $4 million from the reserves to cover the immediate expenses.  This is not something they can do without permission from the province.  School boards across the province were given permission to use up to 2% of their reserves on COVID related expenses.

Board administrators have not yet asked the trustees to approve the spending – they are just telling the trustees that this is the way they see the finances working out.  The HDSB may find itself having to take that 2% from the reserves which amounts to $8 million, which Director Miller said he “is OK with”.

What was of interest was the question Director of Education Stewart Miller put to the trustees on deficits and what they had in the way of a comfort level.

Miller told the trustees that budget shortfalls and the use of reserves are as much a philosophical question as it is a financial matter. What Miller doesn’t have to deal with are tax payers who look askance at increases in their tax bill.  That is the ire that falls upon trustees.

What Miller has to cope with are trustees who do their home work and press the Director for details and teach him how to find efficiencies.

Collard and Miller

If looks could kill – the Director was toast. Amy Collard, Ward 5 Trustee holding the Director of Education to account during the high school closing discussions.

Up until very recently Ward 5 Trustee Amy Collard was the only trustee prepared to and capable of going toe to toe with Miller.

In the past year the Chair, Andrea Grebenc, has gotten stronger and may now be at the point where she can bear down a little harder on the Director and ask awkward questions of some of the Superintendents.

Miller in a huddle with Grebenc

Trustee chair listening to what Director of Education thinks on an issue.

The Chair of the School Board is a job that doesn’t pay very much and for the most part amounts to following staff recommendations. It is a job that takes time to learn – and things can get very sticky if the Chair is having problems – all too often they have to look to the Director of Education for guidance. The biggest job trustees have is hiring and holding the Director to account. It takes several terms as Chair to get to the point where he or she is independent enough to fill the role.

Grebenc showed some of her mettle with the two letters she sent the Ministry of Education; the second had a certain edge to it.  Ms Grebenc may soon be ready for a higher level of office.  She is the Trustee for Ward 3 – that ward could use a voice like the one Grebenc is developing.

Someone to keep an eye on.

Related background articles:

First Grebenc letter to the Minister of Education

Second Grebenc letter to the Minister of Education

Letters from the Board are sent on behalf of the Board

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Back to school: Did you register properly and can you change your mind.

News 100 redBy Staff

September 4th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Deciding to send your children back to school has been an anxious exercise for most parents.

parent with child - directing

Deciding what is right for your child – and changing your mind later.

It has been a challenge for school board staff who have to figure out how many students will be taught in a classroom and how many will be taught virtually.

Will there be split classes – possibly was what trustees learned earlier this week.  They were assured that there would not be any three different grades in a single classroom.

Where is the wiggle room for parents who have not yet made up their minds or who want to change their minds.

Parents can change their minds: The last day to switch between in-person and virtual learning is Tuesday, September 8. You must call the school and advise the principal.

Every school goes through a bit of a re-organization during the second half of September – there is sometimes a need to move students around to balance the load.

The opportunity to change a delivery model (i.e., in-person, virtual) will be: November 30 or end of Term 1 (mid-February).

For Secondary students (Grade 9 – 12) the time to change delivery model (i.e., in person, virtual) will be aligned with the end of quadmesters: November 12 or February 5.

School office staff will follow up with every family who has not completed the survey as the survey requires parents/guardians to complete the Self-Assessment Acknowledgement form (part of the survey).

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School bus challenges - the service will be stretched to the limit

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

September 4th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

School buses and Covid-19 are just one more worry for parents.

Sitting together on a school bus makes social distancing almost a silly idea.

School buses

Will the school boards be able to set up bus routes that cope with the need to keep students in their cohort everywhere possible – and will they be able to service every family?

The school board administration, in a partnership they have with the Catholic school board, run the school bus service using rented vehicles.

The routes will be quite a bit different and the students will be organized as cohorts – they will ride the bus with the students they are in a classroom with.

It is a logistical challenge and at this point the Board administration is not certain that they will be able to provide service to every household.

There will be no school bus service for the elementary students who will be at school on either Thursday or Friday of next week for their dry run at what a school day is going to look like.

Parents might want to think of ride sharing – and figuring out how to work within cohorts.

That phrase – we are all in this together – will take on much more meaning in the weeks ahead.

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Dry run for elementary students Thursday and Friday of next week

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

September 4th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

Halton District School Board Elementary students will get to do a dry run on returning to school next week – the “letting students experience” a return to classroom takes place on Thursday the 10th and Friday the 11th.

Those students with family names that begin with A through to those whose family name begins with L will go to their school on Thursday the 10th.

student being hand sanitized

The Halton District School Board has a secure supply of PPE

They will be met at the school door, have their hands sanitized and get a face mask test to ensure the thing is being worn correctly.

Then they are taken to their class and given instruction on how school will operate for the foreseeable future.

Parents will not be allowed to enter the school.

On Friday, those students with family names that begin with M through to the end of the alphabet, will go through the same routine.

There will be no curriculum taught on those days.

Nor will there be school bus service to the schools.

Director of Education Stuart Miller asked parents to be patient and careful as they approach the school entrance.

desk spacing

Classroom spacing will be different. No passing notes from desk to desk.

The focus will be to teach them the importance of staying within their cohort and “exposing them to the new reality”.

The Board is working at making video material available to parents so they can prep their children for these introductory sessions.

outdoor exercise

Teachers are encouraged to get students outside as much as possible and to ensure that they stay within their cohort.

There will be washroom rules, recess rules, lunch rules and exercise outdoors rules.

Walking around the school will not be what it was when they left school in March. There will be direction markers along the hallways.

Intent to Return Survey

Parents/guardians (and students 18+) were asked to complete the Intent to Return survey by Aug. 23.  If you have not completed the survey, or if you have completed the survey and would like to change your response(s), please contact the main office at your child’s school. The last day to switch between in-person and virtual learning is Tuesday, Sept. 8.

 

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Tents as classrooms - not in Halton

News 100 greenBy Pepper Parr

September 4th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Remember that idea of holding classes outdoors? Some people were thinking year round outdoor classes.

It didn’t get very far at the Trustee meeting this week.

tent classroom

School Board administration found all kinds of reasons for killing the idea of using tents as classrooms.

Trustee Chair Andrea Grebenc raised the thoughts about fundraising for tents that would be used for outdoor classrooms.

They didn’t get very far.

In order to be at all useful – the tent would have to be quite big.

What would go into the tent? And who would be responsible for the cleaning and safety of whatever was placed in the tent?

There would be some vandalism.

In order to put a tent in place the Board would have to get a permit from the city – just the way they have to with portable classrooms.
Insurance and liability issues also had to be figured out.

The killer issue was that parents cannot fundraise for anything related to student accommodation.

That idea was off the table.

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Class sizes for the Halton Public School Board - below what most of the other boards in the province have been able to achieve.

News 100 yellow

By Pepper Parr

September 3rd, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Wednesday evening the Halton District School Board met – it was another long meeting.

No more desks set out in neat rows. The classroom furniture is now such that students can sit by themselves or in groups of two or three - up to eight. The objective was to create situations where the students learn to work as groups and to collaborate on a problem - question or assignment.

The number of students in the elementary classes is low – not the 15 many parents would like but nowhere near the 30 that was feared.

The fear that the school board would be jamming as many as 30 children into the elementary classes is unfounded

There are 244 kindergarten classes in the Halton Region. The regular class size in the past has been as many as 29 students. The average for the kindergarten classes starting September 14th will be 20 students.

In the primary grades 1 to 3 there are 450 classes in the Region. 90% of those classes must be capped at 20. There are 16 classesthat have more than 20 students.. The average is 18 ½ in each class.

The Junior Intermediate level there are 809 classes in the Region. The Board is funded for 24 ½ students. The average for the Junior Intermediate is 22.6

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Director of Education: 'these students are our responsibility – my responsibility when they are on school property'

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

September 2nd, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

There is still a lot of confusion on the part of parents as well as many of the teachers.

But come Tuesday of next week you will be taking your young ones to school – assuming you didn’t opt out for a virtual classroom.

Your job as a parent begins today: students – especially younger ones will need help in coping with the really big change that will take place at every school.

Parent talking covid

Explain to your child what will be different when they return to school – and why things are going to be different.

The Halton Board of Education will be meeting this evening; we will report on what we learn – expect updates on a number of issues.

Let’s stick with the bricks and mortar structure. There will be one door to enter and a different door to leave the building.

Don’t have the child take very much to school the first day – the rules on what elementary students can bring to school will be set out for them by a teacher who will be dressed in full PPE – which might be a little startling for the student.

There will be a lot of rules and as a parent you can do a lot of the prep work in the next handful of days.

Take your younger children to places where there are markers on the floor and explain what they mean and why they are in place.

Explain why they have to wear a mask and why they can only play with the friends in their class.

And that they can’t get too close to those friends.

social circles graphic

Explain what social circles are and how that might limit who your child can actually play with.

The job for parents of early elementary children:

• Tighten up social circles
• Practice physical distancing
• Follow good hand hygiene and respiratory
etiquette
• Wear face coverings in indoor public places and when physical distancing cannot be maintained
• Explain to the child that at some point what that means.

Miller with students Mar 7-17

Director of Education Stuart Miller sees himself as personally responsible for every student in the HDSB

Schools are doing their best to keep parents fully informed – the difficulty is that the rules change – sometimes by the hour.

The Board of Education has to listen to what the Halton Region Public Health Units requires and follow the dictates of the province.

Halton District School Board Director of Education sets out just what he has to deal with – “everything is fluid and dynamic”. “We have to be smart, be focused and realize these students are our responsibility – my responsibility when they are on school property.”

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Medical Officer of Health doesn't make the rules - she interprets and enforces them

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

September 1st, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Dr. Hamidah K. Meghani told the several thousand people who logged into the Virtual Town Hall last week: “We’re here for you!”

Dr Meghani is a Commissioner with the Region of Halton and the Medical Office of Health.

She is a parent with children; has called Oakville home for more than seven years.

HM Big smile

Dr. Hamidah K. Meghani is a Commissioner with the Region of Halton and the Medical Office of Health.

Born in India, Meghani’s family immigrated to Canada when she was a child. She said she remembers seeing the impact of poverty on people in India and learning from her parents the importance of helping those in need. She credits these early experiences with helping to guide her to a career in public health.

She completed a Masters of Public Health in Family and Reproductive Health at Columbia University in New York City.  She is a certified family physician, has completed training in public health and preventative medicine and is a Fellow with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons.

During much of 2011, Meghani interned at Halton Region under former MOH Dr. Bob Nosal, who she succeeded after his 25 years in the role.

 She was previously an Associate Medical Officer of Health in Hamilton,

The incoming MOH earned her medical degree from McMaster University in 2007 and did her residency at the University of Toronto, spending two years at St. Michael’s Hospital.

The pandemic we are dealing with is what she spends every waking hour of every day focused on.

It is not the job she thought she had when she was hired from the city of Hamilton a number of years ago – but it is the job she has learned to do and at this point is doing as well as anyone can expect.

The Regional Councillors can’t lay enough praise at the woman’s feet.

The public, especially parents with children in school, aren’t quite as positive. They are anxious and at some levels confused.

Meghani doesn’t make the rules. Her job is to interpret the rules to the best of her ability and do her level best to ensure that the public is safe.

When the province imposed a lock down on everyone and the public health units began to get reports of people infected with the Covid-19 virus the Public Health Unit had to find or create resources to meet the challenge.

On balance the Region of Halton has been spared when looked at on a per capita basis.

The geography helps – we don’t have any pockets of dense population and few people were going to their offices.

That is expected to change when students are back in school and parents begin to go back to their offices.

There was a tragic outburst at a long term care home in Halton Hills where 11 lives were lost. That location was a private operation with a solid reputation.

Hamida + in HAmilton event.

One of the first public briefings Dr. Meghani took part in was a learning experience. She grew into that part of the job – but prefers to work at a distance (this was her mode of operation well before Covid-19) Here she supports Hamilton Health Sciences physician-in-chief Dr. Barry Lumb provides details after an oncologist at Juravinski Cancer Centre has tested positive for coronavirus. |

Halton has four long term care homes run by the Region – there has not been one reported infection at any of the four locations – someone was doing something right.

The major early challenge for the Public Health units was learning how to quickly identify those thought to be infected and have them tested. In the early stages that at times took days and then a few more days to get the results back.

At that point any attempt to trace where the infection may have come from was close to wasted time.

It was several months before the Public Health Unit could get its hands on software that would allow almost instant tracking.

Today when a person is identified as infected the Public Health Unit is able to reach out and be in touch with every person the infected individual might have been with or near.

There is now a team in place that is on top of the tracking that has to be done.

Meghani’s current challenge is to assuage the concerns of parents and convince them that the safest place for their children is in a classroom.

While the numbers are decent – said to be at the 80% level – there are communities in the province where the response is above the 90% level.

The Board has yet to – and probably won’t – release accurate numbers. Their job is to get every child who is normally healthy into a classroom.

Meghani’s job is to help convince those parents that their children will be safe. And that if there is an outbreak in a school there are protocols and procedures in place to ensure that any hot spot is quickly and effectively isolated.

Meghani told the Virtual Town Hall that she and her team have “ been working together with the board at every step of the way through this planning process and we’re confident that we will be able to provide a safe and productive learning environment for students and staff.”

Parent talking covid

Explaining Covid and its implications to your children is a lot easier than the sex ed conversation you had.

She asked parents to: “Think about your child’s needs”

Does your child have:
• Special learning needs?
• Any medical conditions that may make them prone to severe disease if they get COVID-19?

Talk with your child’s doctor to discuss the risks.

So far, she explained, most children infected with the virus experience mild symptoms.

• Fever
• Cough
• Runny Nose
• Sore Throat
• Headache
• Body Ache
• Diarrhea

Many children have mild or no symptoms. Additionally, children account for a small number of COVID-19 cases overall.

Think about the people with whom you live

Most people will develop minor symptoms and recover on their own.
The risk of severe illness and outcomes is higher for those who are over 70, or who have chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or cancer.

Every family is unique

Decisions around heading back to school will be different for every family depending on:
• their child’s academic needs
• whether their child or household members are at increased risk of severe illness
• the family’s unique situation

The role of Public Health

Setting out what the role of Public Health is during a pandemic should really be: we do what has to be done when it needs to be done and prepare as well as we can for something that is new to everyone.

Work with the school board to ensure measures are in place to protect our students:

• active daily screening
• no mixing of cohorts (or classes) in the elementary years
• ensuring children understand how to properly wear face coverings or masks
• enhanced hand hygiene and cleaning

covid virus

An illustration of what the covid19 virus is believed to look like

Support development of safe school reopening plans

Provide recommendations and resources to help school boards and private schools develop policies and procedures, adhere to infection prevention and control practices and plan measures to ensure the health and safety of staff, students, parents/guardians and visitors.

• Support training and educational opportunities
• Develop processes and protocols for managing sick students and staff
• Develop guidance around managing a confirmed case and an outbreak
• Ensure schools have child-friendly resources that support healthy behaviours.

The biggest tool we have working for us is our own individual behaviour.  Wear a mask, wash your hands frequently and maintain a safe social distance.  That little bugger of a virus wants to jump all over you.

If you want to know more about just how the virus does what it does – check out the link below.  If your high school student child has an interest in science – pass it on.

How the virus gets inside you.

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Grandparents now find they have a new, much appreciated role.

News 100 yellowBy Staff

September 1st, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Grandparents are suddenly in demand.  They are going to have the grandchildren closer to them that they have for some time.

Many parents have turned to their parents for support.

However, there are some grandparents, for a whole host of reasons, don’t get to see the grandchildren for that precious “face time”.  The Canadian Association of Retired People has put together a list that can help grandparents establish a stronger relationship with children they aren’t able to see as much as they would like to.

grandfather boy tablet

Is that boy teaching his grandfather to use that big tablet?

Learn to use Facetime or Skype on your phone or computer so you can watch a show or movie on one while video chatting on the other simultaneously.

Set up specific times to visit online so your grandchildren have those to look forward to—kids like and need structure in these “covid-irregular” times.

Do simple fitness activities like chair yoga, stretches, walking on the spot etc. together, electronically.

Schedule shows, movies and other programs you will watch together and chat about, e.g. start watching a TV show or movie at the same time and chat on another device while watching, or after, so it’s a shared experience. If you only have phone access, watch the movie or TV ahead of time and then discuss.

Help your grandchildren write fun letters and take photos to send to other relatives.

Read a book to them over the phone or online.

grandparent - boy ballons

Who is wearing the biggest smile – and who made the bslloon set up?

Ask them to make collections (such as similar toys, or old photos or other household handy items) as a sort of a Treasure Hunt.

Download books for a virtual age-appropriate book club discussion.

Listen to music with them and have them explain their music preferences to you.

If they are older, ask them to do errands like shopping for you (if they are nearby). Make them feel wanted and useful.

Show an interest and help with their school work.

Ask about and discuss their world of sports, e.g. what they are missing and how they think their favourite sports will rebound when the pandemic is under control.

Send your grandchildren a parcel every other week. You could include a craft to be done together with a parent, some ‘homework ‘ fun pages, homemade cookies, etc. Never send them the same day; keep them wondering when it will arrive and don’t tell when or what is in it.

Share recipes by texting pictures back and forth of what you have created. Make it a fun contest on baking/cooking a variety of different things.

Write down a favourite made-up story and share it as you would a book. Works for both kids and grandparents who have been in the habit of making up stories.

Watch the online kitchen parties that are full of singing and dancing together and showing support for front-line workers and support staff.

Watch them together by telephone or online.

grandparents - child running

A scene that was repeated several million times when the lock in came to an end.

A close colleague with strong views on social distancing has decided that he and his wife will home school their two grandchildren.  They live in a rural setting where there are all kinds of things that can be done outside.

Both have experience teaching – something they acquired when they travelled the world and were able to spend some time with children in different countries.  He taught younger people how to play a guitar and then left the one he brought with them as a gift.

She is an artist and worked with the younger people helping them write a short book and then illustrate it.  It was a chance to teach English and Art at the same time.

We will look in on these two once classes actually start.

 

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What’s open and closed at the City of Burlington for Labour Day Weekend

News 100 blueBy StaffWill the citizens be out marching in the streets along with the Burlington Teen Tour Band when the city announces they have settled all the pier related lawsuits in a closed mediation session?

September 1st, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

City services 1

city services 2

City services 3

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Students return to school September 14th - 20% will attend virtual classes. Part 3 of a series

News 100 blueMichele Bogle

August 31st, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

In this segment of an ongoing series the article addresses continuing concerns as well as new ones. All of the staff and parents in this series have signed the “Intent to Return” Survey. The group participating is mixed with regard to whether their child is ‘distance learning’ or returning to school.

The participants in this series are real. Their names have been changed to preserve their identity.

Region MoH Meghani

Dr. Hamida Meghani, – Medical Officer of Health for the Region of Halton – in the most stressful job of her career.

We’ve learned from Halton Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Meghani, that the Health Protection and Promotion Act, requires a member of a household who tests test positive for the virus must self-isolate for 14 days.

Last Wednesday, at a virtual Town Hall, we learned that 16,000 have chosen distance learning over classroom attendance.

The Board is now scrambling to create three elementary and one secondary, virtual schools which calls for a significant deployment of teaching staff.   The virtual schools will follow the traditional curriculum for both elementary and secondary students.

There were no specifics in the outline during last Wednesday’s town meeting with regard to Special Education classes. Details that were needed earlier than the August 23 deadline, in order for parents to decide whether their child returns or not. Grace Penny and her husband adopted two elementary aged children who require additional attention. Because of the lack of planning to make an informed choice she and her husband have opted to keep their children home. Grace added that there is a great financial burden associated with keeping their special needs children home. A decision, not made lightly. She continues that there is separate funding but that their combined income excludes them from qualifying.

Special Education Teacher Paul Pratt had questions about the use of shields instead of masks. Are there funds being allocated for these ‘in person’ students who are no longer sharing materials? Will the teachers be asked to use the materials that they have already purchased for their students and will they be reimbursed?

What will the ratio of EA’s be in these classes to meet needs in the new scenario? Superintendent Podrebarac spoke of “a host of choices” for protective gear but didn’t specify.

Blackwell and Miller at itsem Nov 2018

Superintendent Terri Blackwell with Director of Education Stuart Miller at the original registration for the iStem program at Aldershot high school.

Superintendent Blackwell addressed the subject of transportation in last Wednesday’s meeting. Each school bus would now be loaded to capacity, potentially three to a seat. While windows can be opened until the onset of colder weather, without the spacing earlier suggested, would the wind from the open windows blowing air directly into faces not much more than two feet behind in each row pose a health risk?

In this same meeting ventilation was addressed within the schools. For some older schools the standard code was for a class window to only open four inches for the safety of the children, when built. For some, like the classroom Sandra Parker taught in, there were no windows. This poses great concern for many of her colleagues and for those of Maria Vanelli’s.

Some teachers like Maria have a ‘high risk’ family member at home and have opted for virtual teaching. An answer to which would give her and her family great comfort in knowing if the Board will accommodate her.

Mila Sanchez and her husband, parents of two elementary aged girls, grades two and four works outside of the home. They are unable to find after school care for their children, a problem shared by many of their friends.

Grade school wearing masks

The carpets will not be on the floors in Halton schools – those toys would be sanitized after every class,

Elementary school teacher Maria Vanelli discussed that she was pleased about the new decision to have students in grades 1-3 wear masks. She suggested that parents might want to practice with their kids before the start date, 10 minutes a day gradually increasing the time. It would be of great help to the teachers. Her final thoughts, “Goes to show how COVID is affecting all aspects of life , from education to shortage of caregivers to added stress on all of us.”

Library Information Technician Carmen White would like everyone to keep in mind that, “It’s going to be scary for everyone and we need to realize that people deal with all of this differently and we need to be KIND to each other. Reality is, there isn’t the space, teachers or money for smaller classes, so we need to do the best we can.”

I hear an unyielding sense of frustration from parents and teachers. The Board has no easy task and no perfect plan, and not enough money to make it all right.

Michele BogleMichele Bogle is a Burlington resident who writes for the Gazette on community issues. She has written several children’s books for ages 4-12, which can be found under the pseudonym, ‘Cameron S. Matthews’. Michele studied journalism from the University of Pennsylvania.

Related news stories in the series:

Part 1:

Part 2:

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