Something to answer for

By Mike Baker

It was quite disconcerting last week hearing the stories from parents whose children are going to be impacted by the latest classroom reshuffle within Trillium Lakelands District School Board [TLDSB].

Quite frankly, and to be intentionally blunt, the whole thing kinda stinks.

While this is nothing new, given that the board has carried out two previous reorganizations – one in October and another in December – parents were united in the belief that this one felt a little different. Or a lot different depending on who you spoke to.

There were no early rumours or leaks put out suggesting a change was imminent, instead what TLDSB decided to do was send a generic email, with next to no information included, to parents in the middle of the school day, informing them everything their child had come to know in recent weeks and months, at least from a learning perspective, was about to be pulled out from under their feet.

For those of you that aren’t quite aware, these parents, and more specifically their children, have been put through the ringer this school year. There has been very little in the way of consistency, with some elementary-level kids this week moving on to their fifth or sixth teacher. These kids need some level of stability, a familiar face to guide them if they are to reach their potential. These are important formative years for these children.

Now, 164 students are going to have to start over once again. They’ll have to try and make new friends, connect with a new teacher and adapt to new learning practices. Oh, and they had better do it quick, because there’s less than a third of the school year remaining.

The timing of this announcement seems strange, especially considering it has had very little impact on in-person classes here in Haliburton County. We’re hearing that a brand new combined senior kindergarten, Grade 1 and Grade 2 class will be created at Archie Stouffer Elementary School, while there would be some student additions to existing classes at other facilities.

If it had to be done at all, why wasn’t the reorganization pushed through earlier this year, to give students ample time to readjust and acclimatize to their new surroundings? While it has been suggested the board should have simply moved those who wanted to return to in-person learning and left the Learn@Home cohorts as they were, that scenario likely wasn’t possible. I’m sure the provincial government has very strict regulations regarding how many students have to be in a class to qualify for funding. That, in my mind, is why between 10 and 20 TLDSB teachers were let go last week. Upper level government bureaucracy.

One thing TLDSB can answer for, though, is why on earth they decided to send the notice out to parents, many of whom were literally sitting right beside their child as they participated in class, outlining these changes. They had to know it was going to cause some amount of upset. Yes, they legally had to give the teachers a certain amount of notice so that they were finished by Friday. But the parents definitely could have waited until later in the day to read that email and help their kids through the news.

That poor decision led to unexpectedly tear-filled classes for many students and teachers. Perhaps if the board had, for a single second, approached this whole reshuffle from the perspective of a parent, they could have avoided this whole mess.