April 27, 2022 Meeting of the 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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Presentation: Parent Involvement Council (PIC)

Last week PIC representatives voted yes on a motion to ask Board of Trustees to reinstate mask mandates in Limestone schools. PIC co-chairs Crystal Bevens-Leblanc and Shayla Bradley presented “PIC Request for Return of Universal Masking to LDSB”. PIC's rationale for the motion included:

  • KFL&A having the highest rate of COVID-19 cases in Ontario
  • PHO: masking indoors can reduce school transmission and disruption
  • Science Table Modelling: community benefits from masking are most pronounced when adopted in places like schools
  • Children's Health Coalition, local health leaders, and CMOH strongly encourage indoor public masking

PIC asked the Board of Trustees to not focus on weighing both sides equally, but to privilege those impacted most, with the least amount of choice, in the name of equity. In addition, those in favour of this motion are asking for the best chance at normalcy by way of installing the protections that are most likely to keep kids safe in school.

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Expanded Opportunities for Students in LDSB

Associate Superintendent Steve Hedderson, Geoff Petznick (Expanded Opportunities) and Melissa Baker-Cox (Pathways and Equity Consultant) presented on the expanded opportunities programs for students in LDSB through specialist high skills major (SHSM) and Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP).
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The Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) allows participating students to have their hours count towards completing an apprenticeship.
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With 181 students currently enrolled in the OYAP program, they are graduating high school with up to 1/3 of their apprenticeship hours completed.

There are 476 LDSB students enrolled in the SHSM programs, and 1229 certifications have been offered so far this year.

Highlights of the available programs can be viewed on the Limestone YouTube Channel.

Private Session

Vice Chair Gingrich called upon to Rise and Report from Private Session. Private session minutes were approved, a legal matter was discussed. No other business conducted or motions passed. The report was accepted.

Chair's Report

Chair Suzanne Ruttan provided the following report:

"Congratulations to the students who participated and will participate in extra curriculars and special events, like the Bayridge Road tomorrow and LCVI’s Road Race next week, where thousands of elementary students will challenge themselves. The recent Frontenac Lennox & Addington Science Fair, Bayridge Secondary School Elementary Computing Challenge happening tomorrow, as well as numerous Earth Week and Earth Day activities provide students with learning opportunities that enhance the standard curriculum and give students many different and new experiences to achieve success. It is exciting to have these opportunities return.

The fact that all this amazing learning is returning in full force during National Volunteer Week does not go unnoticed for me. Therefore, on behalf of all Trustees, I would like to extend sincere thanks to the community volunteers, staff advisors and staff coaches in Limestone schools. Thank you for your commitment to public education. Your gift of time and talent to support our students is truly valued. Our schools are better places because of what you do.

The provincial budget will be brought down tomorrow.

There will be no new information for our sector. School boards received projected estimates through the annual grants for student needs, released earlier in February.

Board staff is currently unpacking these technical details for our use in upcoming budget meetings. Tomorrow’s announcement may provide further context but there will be no new or additional funds allotted to public education.

And that concludes my report."

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Student Trustee Report

Student Trustees Roy, Johnson and Duncan provided the Student Trustee Report:

Trustee Duncan provided the update on behalf of the Student Trustees.

Starting off by welcoming the incoming Student Trustees, who start their new roles in August 2022. An overview of the Interschool Council meeting was provided, where there was an open discussion and explanation of the motion that was being discussed at the Trustee Meeting, what it meant for schools and how the Interschool Council predicted the responses from students within their schools would be.

Trustees expressed the importance of their role to reach out to students throughout the school year to lead, support, and encourage participation in various activities within Limestone.

Preparations for Asian Heritage Month and Culture Day are underway. LCVI is hoping to host an Asian-Owned Business Fair open to everyone in May, as well as a Culture Day event that will allow students to join together in unison and respect each others’ cultures.

Director's Report

Director Burra provided the following report:

"Good evening trustees, members of the virtual gallery, and members of the in-person gallery.

I would like to start my comments by stating that I remain cautiously optimistic about our current status of continuing to support in-person learning across all Limestone schools. While I sent messaging to families several weeks ago indicating concern based on student and staff absences, and the potential of having to close or pivot classrooms due to insufficient staffing, the past 2-3 weeks have been more manageable in terms of staff absences, and we have seen a steady decline in student absences due to COVID-related reasons. To be clear staffing pressures we have seen have more than one cause: (a) staff absences have an ebb and flow, but our ability to replace staff is a more significant challenge. The reality is that shortages of replacement staff is a continuation of a pre-pandemic situation that has been exacerbated with a slight, general increase to staff absences. And (b) with the reopening of many aspects of life, more staff are impacted by things like elective surgeries or dental appointments for themselves or children.

I know trustees are still considering reimplementation of masking measures as an additional protective layer in schools. A couple of other school boards have done so, and others may still make this move. I would like to highlight the fact that emotions are running high on this issue and there is little room for compromise. I would also note that many of the perspectives on each side of this argument focus on what is best for children and their wellness. This is a multifactorial, multilayered discussion, and in my opinion, no one is absolutely correct, regardless of their stance on masking when it comes down to the well-being of a specific child in a specific context. I think many people continue to be worried about the pandemic and I share many of those concerns. My mother is in a LTC facility currently experiencing an outbreak and my niece is very much at risk because she has spinal muscular atrophy. Higher risks are real for some people. But so is the desire to provide greater normalcy for children and youth after many disruptions.

The last two years have been very difficult and challenging, and I hope any decision tonight is focused on the benefits to children. Masking has become a divisive topic as we enter the third year of the pandemic. Education can be hotly contested at times because the success and wellness of children, our children, matters greatly to all parents and caregivers. As a parent, I fully understand the desire to do the best you can for your child or children. This becomes more complicated when what might be best for one child is different than what is best for another child. To be frank, the echo chamber of different social media platforms does nothing to bridge the gap between what some people want or need, and the wants or needs of others that differ. Both sides of this issue will also selectively pick different aspects of the science on COVID, or be swayed by politics or misinformation.

This pandemic has taken a toll, and continues to take a toll on students, staff, and families. Emotions have been running high, and as I mentioned, we face a zero-sum situation with limited room for compromise. This is an issue that will divide communities and will have a significant ripple effect impacting relationships between a wide range of stakeholders in Limestone, as well as what the last 9 weeks of school look like.

We are at a point where not everyone will agree with any decision of the government, public health, or Limestone. My only request is that any decision made focus on the benefit of all students, and while people may disagree with others, that people do so respectfully because regardless of your perspective on this matter, children, our children, are watching and learning from everything we do. As the Persian poet Rumi said, “Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”

I wish I could focus attention and report on all of the positive and wonderful teaching and learning that is occurring in schools that is shadowed by the pandemic. I am continually amazed by the efforts made by so many staff to support students on a daily basis and focus on learning and fun in the classroom. If you can get past the likely sale of Twitter to Elon Musk, there are so many great examples of engaging and powerful learning occurring in schools. Our mid-year update to the strategic plan will provide a bit of a glimpse at our system priorities, but while the update occurs twice per year, we do try to bring the plan to life in everything we share at Board and committee meetings.

In other news, it was great to see that the first KASSAA track event in three years was held today. There is no question that the ability to hold extracurricular activities for most of this year has greatly improved the experiences of many students.

As Trustees are aware, Limestone is very pleased to be launching our first workforce census and belonging survey. This will provide valuable data as we continue with our critical Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Indigeneity work.

And finally, this meeting’s presentation is on Expanded Opportunities Programming available within Limestone. We are very excited about all of these programs, and tonight will focus on Information and Communication Technology, Transportation, Digital Media, and Industrial Communication Technology.

As we enter the final 20% of the 2021-2022 school year, lots of preparations continue for end-of-year graduations and planning for 2022-2023. My hope is we can proceed through the remaining 9 weeks of the school year with a focus on teaching and learning, and positively conclude the third school year impacted by the current pandemic. We all have a role in making sure this occurs for the benefit of children and youth in Limestone."

Ontario Public School Boards' Association (OPSBA) Report

Trustee Laurie French provided the OPSBA report.

The AGM happens June 9-11, 2022. A full report will be available next week.

Reports for Information: École Kingston East Elementary School (ÉKEES) Renaming

A renaming committee was established in October 2021 to oversee the consultation process with all school community stakeholder groups to select renaming options. The committee included representation from students, families, staff, and community members, with emphasis on ensuring the membership included Indigenous Peoples and voices.

Between November 22-26, 2021, an initial call for names was opened to EKEES students, families, staff, and community members via an online submission process. Committee narrowed the submissions to a short list. The short list of four names honour equity, diversity, and inclusivity, and ensures all students, families, and staff feel safe and welcome. Stakeholders were invited to provide input on all 4 names and rank their top three choice, and welcome to provide one alternate suggestion that wasn’t included in the list of names.

Follow up survey was Feb 14-18, 2022. Based on survey results and student voice collected through conversation at EKEES, Renaming Committee removed two least popular names and added two new names to final list. The final survey was open March 31-April 7, 2022. Committee asked EKEES school community to select top three choices between: Butternut Creek Elementary School, Maple Elementary School, Forestview Elementary School, Mapleview Elementary School.

The week of April 4, EKEES gathered student voice by connecting the curriculum to various aspects of the renaming process. Students and staff collected and graphed data, created persuasive advertisements (posters), and incorporated their ideas into writing.

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The Committee is required to provide Trustees with 3 to 5 name suggestions for consideration, along with rationale and indication of the level of support for the short-listed names. Online surveys gathered name preferences from EKEES school community and public.
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Global News visited EKEES to cover the process of developing the short list of names, and to hear from the students about their involvement, excitement, and commitment to the renaming process.
Trustees have been invited to go for a visit to EKEES and a walk on the land on May 16 before discussion of new name at the May Board Meeting.

It is recommended that the Board of Trustees select a new name from the following four names: Butternut Creek Elementary School, Maple Elementary School, Forestview Elementary School, and Mapleview Elementary School.

Report for Information: Student Trustee Elections for 2022-2023 School Year

Next to Director Burra’s Student Trustee Elections for 2022-2023 school year report. Due to COVID-19 pandemic, Student Trustee elections were held virtually. This year Limestone saw its largest and most diverse group of students running for Student Trustee.

Urban Trustee Mohammed Elshrief: Mohammed is an honour role student at Frontenac Secondary School. He is actively involved in his school and community through many roles, including: the Kingston Model U.N. COVID-19 Executive Team, volunteering at Artillery Park to help the elderly community and those with disabilities engage in meaningful activities, Arabic Tutor at the Kingston ISK helping children get the basics of Arabic language, an Arabic interpreter for immigrants and refugees to Kingston at KEYS Job Centre, and volunteering for the Liberal Party’s campaign in the 2019 election. As a first-generation immigrant from Egypt, he is an enthusiastic leader, focusing on helping to improve schools’ environments to make them more inclusive and welcoming to students.

Rural Trustee Elayna Jackson: Growing up in a rural area and attending a rural school, Elayna understands the unique challenges rural schools face and is excited to be a voice and make an impact for rural students and school communities within the Limestone District School Board. She has actively been involved in student council initiatives from her time as an elementary student at Land O’Lakes Public School, to the present day as a student at Granite Ridge Education Centre. Having worked in the customer service industry, Elayna has developed communication skills that allow her to understand various perspectives while maintaining focus on her task of advocating for rural students as a Student Trustee. She loves to play sports, including competitive softball in Napanee, and enjoys making various connections and having access to many students’ voices both within her local community and the greater Limestone District School Board Community.

Indigenous Trustee Julia Kolosov: Julia is a student at Kingston Secondary School who is focused on using her leadership skills to further advance Indigenous culture within the school board, how it is represented, acknowledged, and respected within the school community. Playing competitive water-polo for the past ten years has allowed Julia to develop resilience, self-confidence, and leadership skills, while working with teammates and friends to accomplish the same and encouraging everyone to be creative while learning from their mistakes. Julia is excited to meet with school representatives, parent council members, and school staff to advocate for what the board’s Indigenous students need to be successful.

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Report for Information: COVID-19 Update

As the landscape of COVID-19 evolves, the absence rates within the Limestone system continue to fluctuate. It was noted there are several reasons by staff may require coverage, and that long term absences also impact statistics.

Since mid-February 2022, Limestones has had, on average, 395 daily absences, with the largest number of absences following March Break, but not exclusively since the break. The five-day forecast from April 22, 2022, shows a continuing decline in absences.

Limestone has created a COVID-19 Related Absence Reporting Dashboard to support our school communities with information about student COVID-19 related absences within our schools. You can view the Dashboard here:

Information presented on dashboard is provided on a voluntary basis by parents or guardians when reporting their student’s absence from school due to a COVID-19 related reason. The dashboard only includes COVID-19 related absences on a school level and does not include information on a grade or classroom level. Providing this data provides greater insight into COVID-19 activity in a school community.

Tri-Board Transportation continues to experience run cancellations due to driver shortages. Shortages are caused by COVID as well as general shortage of labour across entire service sector. Cancellations currently running ~2% of runs per day.

Notice of Motion Presented: Reinstate Masking in Schools

Trustee Hutcheon brought forward the following motion:

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The motion was amended to read:

"In light of the significant increase in COVID-19 cases in the KFL&A area and the subsequent impacts on students and employees and recognizing recent statements from Dr. Kieran Moore and from Southeast Region’s hospital Chiefs of staffs and Medical Officers of Health, including Dr Oglaza, strongly recommending continued wearing of masks in all public indoor settings, the recommendation from Public Health Ontario to temporarily re-instate masking requirements in schools, and local calls from Kingston Health Sciences Centre urging our community to be COVID safe, that the LDSB staff be directed to require, with reasonable exemptions, from an occupational health and safety perspective, mask use in all LDSB buildings for staff, students and visitors, beginning May 2, 2022, and ending June 30, 2022.”

The amended motion was discussed by Trustees, and then there was a motion to move into private session.

A recess was called as the Board moved into private session. The Board then returned to the meeting and a roll call vote was called to vote on the motion.

Trustees Brown, Godkin, Hutcheon, and Morning were in favour of the motion. Trustee French, Gingrich, McGregor, and Ruttan were against the motion. Trustee Elliott recused himself.

End result: Motion failed

There was a motion to push remaining agenda items to the May Board meeting, which was accepted by the Board, and the meeting was adjourned.

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.