By Zachary Roman
The G7 Student Senate presented their climate action plan to the Trillium Lakelands District School Board at its regular meeting of the board on June 9.
One representative from each of the seven high schools in TLDSB come together to form the G7 Student Senate. The senate’s main goals are to help communications between students and bring student issues to the TLDSB board of trustees.
Kaylee Kelly TLDSB student trustee and student G7 representative for Haliburton Highlands Secondary School said that climate change is rapidly affecting communities around the world and that we’ll all be facing consequences if we don’t take action.
Inspired by Indigenous water activist Autumn Peltier and Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg the senate wanted to make a plan to help the school board become sustainable prioritize environmental issues and set the standard for all school communities.
So they got to work. They created a 10-part climate action plan that aimed to be realistic and efficient. At various times senior administration spent time with the G7 senate and provided feedback on the plan.
Larry Hope director of education for TLDSB introduced the plan to the board and made it clear just how much work went into it. “What you see in front of you this evening is really the culmination of a significant amount of research forward thinking insightfulness and what I would call just great intuition about what's going on” said Hope. “Our young people are very influential not just within their schools but within their communities and their homes. And we're hoping that what you see in front of you [will] have influence on what happens within TLDSB for the years to come.”
The senate took turns outlining the different phases of their plan. In order from first to last the phases are: education and commitment; mental health and student advocacy; technology considerations; waste management; energy connections; food resilience; resource management; carbon-conscious transportation; creation of eco-spaces; and evaluation. The plan is intended to be a living document that can grow and adapt as it is implemented used and reviewed at schools across the board.
Kelly presented the mental health and student advocacy section noting that while connecting climate change and mental health is a relatively new study it is especially important for vulnerable populations and people with pre-existing mental health conditions. Included under the mental health and student advocacy section was a plan for Indigenous inclusion. “Indigenous peoples are a vital part of the TLDSB Climate Action Plan” said Kelly. “We need to bring a balance in ourselves and the world around us by seeking guidance from … Indigenous peoples because we must recognize that our responsibility as stewards of Mother Earth is our most important job.”
Some other notable recommendations from the plan are to conduct waste and energy audits create a community garden and move towards sustainable student transportation.
The entire plan explained in more detail will be posted on tldsb.ca. The plan will be distributed internally to all staff members and it is ready for implementation at the start of the next school year.
When the plan was finished being presented Gary Brohman Haliburton County school trustee was impressed. “[That was a] level four plus presentation and document” said Brohman. “I don't think the United Nations can do a better job.”
There was no draft budget report ready for TLDSB trustees at the June 9 meeting. TLDSB administration is still awaiting information about the government’s Grants for Student Needs – without it they cannot complete their budget. The board expected this as they understand the funds are delayed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Once GSN information is sent to the board it is required to submit a balanced budget to the Ministry of Education by mid-August.
TLDSB has received extra summer funding from the Ministry of Education to put towards helping students who may have fallen behind due to the closure of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. Included in this extra funding was money for mental health supports and a program focusing on Indigenous students. Hope said this was the first time the board has received funding for student mental health support in the summer.
The vast majority of summer course offerings will be offered online and are running as usual. There is a small chance in-person course delivery could happen in the last two weeks of August if public health approves it.
TLDSB’s next regular board meeting’s location is to be determined. It will take place on Aug. 25 at 6:30 p.m.