As summer vacation 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, point to an increase in class enrollment summer and student participation.
Tracey Langelaan, superintendent of student success 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 enrolled virtually,” she said. “We have approximately 270 students attending New Credit in person, (and) we have our largest cohort of students currently attending summer co-op with over 100 students.”
According to Langelaan, the number of summer registrations continues to increase year after year. She said the influx is not only related to the disruption caused by the pandemic, but also goes hand in hand with the variety of options available to students.
“Some of the benefits that the pandemic has taught us are how we can provide different learning,” she explained. “It’s really opened the door for students who may not be able to provide transportation to a site in person (and) it extends that flexibility to families.
“It also extends that flexibility to our staff, who are able to balance the nuances of their summer break, but still offer virtual programming for students,” Langelaan added.
However, over the past year, TVDSB and other school boards have had to deal with an increase in staff absences.
In April 2022, TVDSB Associate Director Jeff Pratt issued a statement to Global News saying that the increase in absences is “the result of staff illness”.
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John Bernans, Thames Valley District President of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), says mental health issues are also to blame for rising staffing shortages.
“Teachers and education workers are struggling to support students during the pandemic without additional resources,” Bernans said. “It harmed (their) health.”
He added that the difficulty of planning and the lack of available prep work added further pressure on 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 of these extra stresses that have been put on them,” Bernana said.
“It is no surprise that they are unable to take on the extra duties of summer school at this time,” he added. “So it’s no surprise that there is an impact on the ability to provide summer school.”
According to Langelaan, however, some educators are still willing to extend their teaching into the summer months.
“We are always able to find teachers who are willing to extend their employment until July, which is a real testament to the commitment of the educators we work with and their commitment to students and their learning,” said- she declared.
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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 the opportunity to meet some of the curriculum expectations that they may not have had a chance to complete throughout the school year,” she said. “They can work directly with their teacher to maybe submit outstanding assignments or confer with teachers just to establish and solidify the end of that course.”
Sincerely, Langelaan expresses his gratitude to the educators at TVDSB.
“We are really lucky to have so many educators who are ready to step in,” Langelaan said. “It’s also an acknowledgment of their kind of moral responsibility to support students through this era of learning, recovery and re-engagement.”
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