As summer break enters its first week after another unpredictable school year due to COVID-19, officials at the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) in London, Ontario highlight an increase in enrollment at the summer school and student participation.
Tracey Langelaan, superintendent of student achievement at TVDSB, said virtual enrollment numbers, also known as new credit e-learning courses, are “through the roof.”
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“We have over 3,000 students who are registered virtually,” he said. “We have about 270 students attending New Credit in person, (and) we have our largest cohort of students participating in summer co-op right now with over 100 students.”
According to Langelaan, the number of summer enrollments continues to increase year after year. She said the influx is not only related to the disruptions caused by the pandemic, but also goes hand in hand with the diversity of options available to students.
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“Some of the benefits that the pandemic has taught us is how we can deliver learning differently,” he explained. “It really opened the door for students who may not be able to provide transportation to a site in person (and) extends that flexibility to families.
“It also extends that flexibility to our staff, who can balance the nuances of their summer break, but still offer virtual programming for students,” Langelaan added.
However, over the past year, TVDSB, among other school boards, has been dealing with an increase in staff absences.
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In April 2022, TVDSB Associate Director Jeff Pratt provided a statement to Global News saying that the increase in absences is “the result of staff illness”.
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John Bernans, TVDSB local chair of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF), says mental health issues are also to blame for the rising staffing shortage.
“Teachers and education workers have been struggling to support students during the pandemic without additional resources,” Bernans said. “A price has been taken on (her) health.”
He added that the difficulty in planning and the lack of available preparation work added additional stress for education workers.
“While things started to get back to normal in the second half, or at the end of the year, it takes a while to recover from all this added stress that had been put on them,” Bernana said.
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“It’s not surprising that they can’t take on additional summer school duties right now,” he added. “So it’s not surprising that there is some impact on the ability to offer summer school.”
However, according to Langelaan, some educators are still willing to extend their teaching into the summer months.
“We can always find teachers who are willing to extend their employment through July, which really speaks to the commitment of the educators we work with and their commitment to students and their learning,” he said.
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Langelaan said that before the end of the school year, credit recovery and rescue opportunities are also available at TVDSB schools.
“It really gives students an opportunity to meet some of the curricular expectations that they may not have had a chance to finish during the school year,” he said. “They can work directly with their teacher to maybe submit any missing assignments or have a conference with the teachers just to establish and solidify the end of that course.”
Greetings, Langelaan extends his gratitude to the educators of TVDSB.
“We are very lucky to have so many educators who are willing to step up,” Langelaan said. “It’s also an acknowledgment of their kind of moral responsibility to support students in this age of learning, recovery and re-entry.”
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