Boardroom Briefs

September 22 & 29, 2021 Meetings of LDSB Board of Trustees

Boardroom Briefs is intended to provide highlights of presentations, reports and decisions made at the regular meeting of the Limestone District School Board of Trustees. These briefs do not serve as the official record of the meeting. Please refer to Board minutes which are approved at the next regular meeting. Community members are also invited to follow along during live tweets of regular Board meetings using the hashtag #LDSBmtg.

Each meeting, a different Trustee will present the Indigenous Acknowledgement of Territory and include their own personal reflections.

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Chair's Report

The following is combined highlights of the September 22 and 29, 2021 Board Meetings.

Chair Ruttan remarked that staff, in all roles, have given so much of themselves over the last weeks making classrooms and routines safe and welcoming for new and returning students both in-person and virtually. On behalf of all Trustees, Chair Ruttan expressed their collective gratitude to staff for their dedication, comprehensive preparation and positive welcoming to students and families.

Chair Ruttan acknowledged National Truth and Reconciliation Week (September 27 October 1). All schools and board sites have lowered flags to half-mast for the week. She added Thursday, September 30 is the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as well as Orange Shirt Day, stating that Limestone recommits to the important role schools play in educating school communities about the shameful legacy of residential schools and the ongoing need for truth, and ongoing and meaningful Reconciliation.

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Student Trustee Report

The Student Trustee Report was presented by Trustee Duncan. She reported InterSchool Council meeting (of secondary students) was held September 21, 2021 with a variety of topics discussed including homelessness within youth, Spirit Week, student cultural differences, supporting community donations.

There was discussion around Student Trustees visiting schools to speak to students or arrange a Microsoft Team meeting so that all the students' voice are heard and acknowledged. Trustee Duncan voiced concerns about cultural differences and how to provide supports for all cultures and celebrating different cultural holidays to ensure all students are being included.

Trustee Roy provided an update from the Indigenous student circle. Students discussed a mentorship program to have older peers support younger students. Trustee Roy said there was much discussion around the playing of O' Canada on Orange Shirt Day with a decision to withhold playing or using an Indigenous version. A survey on Indigenous student experience and fundraising for Indigenous issue or project was also discussed.

Director's Update September 22, 2021

Director of Education Krishna Burra provided the following report.

We are now mid-way through the third week of school and, while not perfect, feedback from students, families and staff is overwhelmingly positive and everyone is glad to be back learning and/or working in person.

The Director said it is clear that Team Limestone is back and ready to serve, a collective effort from the time students get on buses in the morning to when they leave at the end of the day. As Director he has gratitude for everyone in the system, regardless of their role.

The first cases of COVID-19 in schools has been reported. Limestone will continue to work closely with KFL&A Public Health to focus on health and safety to keep schools open. School-based vaccination clinics have also been taking place in many of secondary schools and vaccination rates are high among students.

Public Health reports 86.6 per cent of eligible students (12-17) have received their first dose of vaccine and 76.3 per cent have their second dose and are fully vaccinated as of September 22, 2021. These rates exceed the current rates for the age group from 18-25.

Community vigilance will continue to be critical in this pandemic to ensure schools remain open, and to allow in-person learning and extracurricular activities to continue. The pandemic is not over and our continued, collective efforts will be required in the months ahead.

Although COVID remains top-of-mind, there is a lot of other exciting initiatives beginning or continuing in Limestone. It has been wonderful to see the range of excellent, engaging learning opportunities on social media that educators are utilizing to support learning.

Presentation: Student Census 2020 Preliminary Report

Superintendent of Education Alison McDonnel introduced Research & Data Analysts Laura Gillam and Ellyn Clost-Lambert , who provided an overview.

The census was designed to include all students from Kindergarten to Grade 12, and so there were three versions of the survey: Grades 7 to 12, Grades 4 to 6, and Kindergarten to Grade 3. Students in Grades 4 to 12 completed the survey in class with educators’ support, while families of students in Kindergarten to Grades 3 completed the survey at home.

The overall response rate for Grades 4 to 12 was 76 per cent. The overall response rate for Grades 7 to 12 was 72 per cent. The overall response rate for the Board (K-12) was 55 per cent.

They explained the focus is on five key outcomes that align with Limestone's Equity Action Plan. At the root of this growth lies the significant groundwork.

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Limestone is building strong roots to support a shared belief by: sharing preliminary data, building a Technical Advisory Group, engaging students and families, collaborating with stakeholders and communicating plans.

The Census work team will use QuantCrit which states that first step in any quantitative project is to "interrogate the collection, analysis and representation of statistical material for likely bias in favour of the racial status quo."

The preliminary data will be shared through various means: Infographics, return of 'Census Info Fridays' e-blasts for staff, emails to notify staff, community partners, families, and students. Engagement and feedback will be monitored.

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Limestone will continue to engage with students and families. Once the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) is formed, there will be more opportunities for bringing students and families into interpretation activities. Recruitment of TAG will start in October using a multi-pronged approach and collaboration with people within and outside of LDSB networks. The goal is to have the first meeting in January 2022, and the group fully established by end of 2021-2022 school year.

Superintendent of Education Alison McDonnell indicated that the rollout of data is a process and it will be a learning opportunity for everyone involved.

Report for Information: School Safety and Human Rights Reporting Tool

Associate Superintendent of Safe & Caring Schools Patty Gollogly reminded Trustee and viewers Limestone has had a Report Bullying/Safety Issue reporting tool for several years, however, it appears there is little awareness among students, and it doesn’t include key indicators that could also be used to report human rights incidents.

Staff have revised the reporting tool and renamed it the Report Safety/Human Rights Incident reporting tool. A fillable online form clearly identifies the process for reporting incidents that infringe on human rights such as discrimination, bullying/cyberbullying or school safety.

Definitions for each category is provided to assist users in determining which type of incident they are reporting. All reports are centrally collected and collated for follow up, tracking, and reporting purposes.

To help support greater education and awareness about the updated reporting tool, a district awareness campaign will begin in late September 2021 and will use a simple action-oriented tagline: “See it, Hear it, Report it.”

While users may remain anonymous, follow up to the reporter is only possible if contact information is provided. The new online reporting tool is available on the board's website.

Report for Information: Live Streaming and Captioning Update

Director Burra provided additional information related to streaming meetings and transcription of recorded meetings to comply with Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

As part of 2021-2022 budget process, funding was allocated to support improvements in audio/visual equipment in the Board room to improve the experience of participants and viewers.

Viewership for recent Board Meetings is low. Some numbers may be inflated because some participants attempted connections with more than one device during meetings. In addition, time engaged in any given meeting varied widely. Viewership ranged from five to 34 viewers a meeting over the last year.

Should meetings be archived for future viewing, they must be captioned as per AODA. For LDSB to caption meetings (which are considered pre-recorded video content), and meet current AODA requirements, a significant amount of staff time is required.

Without additional funding to support captioning, provision of this service is not currently feasible. In context of the ongoing pandemic, staff would be reluctant to divert additional resources to this function, and rather maintain maximum flexibility to address pandemic-related needs.

Report for Information: Employee Vaccination Attestation

Superintendent of Human Resources Susan McWilliams reported approximately 2,781 employees out of 3,111 have completed the process. Of those who have completed the attestation, 85% are fully vaccinated, 5% are not fully vaccinated and 10.6% have not declared their vaccination status as of September 22, 2021.

Board statistics are available on the website and will be updated regularly.

Employees not fully vaccinated are required to test twice per week and participate in an Education Program, provided by Ministry of Education before September 30. These staff have been provided Rapid Antigen Testing kits.

Employees who continue to refuse to complete the attestation, complete weekly testing, and/or participate in the education program, will be managed through the progressive discipline process, as appropriate.

Administrative Report: Mandatory Vaccines for Extracurricular Participants

Director Burra and Senior Human Resources Lead Talya McKenna presented KFL&A Public Health's recommendation of mandatory vaccines for extracurricular participants. Principal McKenna stated in May 2021, school boards, public health and pediatric physicians, KASSAA and LESAA met to advocate and plan for a safe return to sport.

The Ministry return to school guidance did not provide much clarity, therefore, LDSB continued to work with local health and sport partners to create protocols and guidelines for return to train and return to competition (and return to music).

Several local facility sites used by LDSB sports teams do currently require vaccination (as of September 22.)

LDSB will continue to work with public health about high-risk contact activities indoors for example basketball and music (band) and some low-risk activities like individual sports such as cross country. Complicating factors is the mixing of cohorts when leaving your school class cohorts for inter-school play or inter-region play. As such, public health KFLAPH and HPEPH are recommending vaccinations as an extra layer of protection.

Director Burra explained the board is moving slowly and cautiously, and this includes a limit on spectators in order to limit student contacts in the event of a case or outbreak. He indicated next steps would be a phased approach to allow for vaccination of extracurricular participants who now wish to do so. Without documented exemption, testing would be required.

The board will be moving forward with mandatory vaccination for extracurricular participants to mitigate risk. To address concerns or questions from participants or families, an online form will be provided to collect questions and/or considerations regarding the implementation of this measure.

Notices of Motion

Trustees debated and voted on a motion brought forward at the Special Meeting of the Board on September 29, 2021.

The first motion, brought forward by Trustee Elliott, dealt with staff masking. “That the LDSB write a letter to the Ministry of Education requesting the approval of masking better than level 2, and that the Ministry fund this enhanced PPE for all staff and students across Ontario."

Trustee voted unanimously in favour of motion.

A second motion was introduced and voted on during the September 29, 2021 Special Meeting of the Board as it related to the Administrative Report: KFL&A Public Health Recommendation to Consider Mandatory Vaccines for Extracurricular Participants.

Trustee Elliott introduced the following motion: "The Trustees of the LDSB endorse staff moving forward with operationalizing mandatory vaccines for participants (age 12 and up) of extracurricular activities unless a documented medical exemption exists."

Trustee voted unanimously in favour of motion.

For Meeting Agendas and Minutes, please visit the board's website.

Limestone District School Board

The Board serves more than 19,000 elementary and secondary students in 60 schools and 8 education centres covering a geographic area of 7,719 square kilometres. To get in touch with your trustee, visit Meet Your Trustees.