Boardroom Briefs

April 29, 2020 Meeting 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.

Please note the April 29, 2020 meeting was conducted virtually due to the COVID-19 extended school closure.

Private Session Update

Trustee Laurie French provided a public report of topics discussed in private sessions ahead of recent meetings. Trustee French shared that the Board passed a motion fora consultant to lead recruitment process for the selection of the new Director of Education at the March 25, 2020 meeting. Also, the Board passed a motion to select Ontario Education Services Corporation as the successful consultant. At the April 8, 2020 meeting, Trustees passed a motion regarding the proposed timeline for the selection of the Director process. On April 22, 2020, Trustees passed a motion regarding the ratification of the new Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario agreement.

Chair Report

Chair Suzanne Ruttan provided the following report.

The Minister of Education has announced school closures will continue until at least May 31. Our staff remain committed to supporting our students until it is safe to be together again. The Chair indicated she is proud of the new and innovative approaches being developed and delivered by Limestone staff during these unprecedented times for teaching and learning and business continuity.

Trustees are also pushing through new ways of doing business. Board of Trustees has continued its work requiring decision virtually via telephone, email and video conference. The Board continues to trial virtual Board meetings.

Despite the operational challenges of negotiating collective agreements during the pandemic, the Ontario Public School Boards' Association, the Council of Trustees’ Association and the provincial government have now reached deals or tentative central agreements with all education unions. Last week’s announcement of a tentative agreement with the Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers' Federation provides much needed stability to the education sector. The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario ratified its agreement yesterday.

Director's Report

Director of Education Debra Rantz provided the following report.

The school board is now in week four of emergency remote learning. She indicated Trustees would hear more in an information report later in the agenda. Much of the board's communication outreach has been to our families but there is also an emphasis on keeping students engaged during this time. That is why one of her recent video messages directly addressed students.

Student well-being and safety continue to be paramount and learning is an important part of that safety plan. We know that remote learning is not ideal but we continue to develop a range of options that are reasonable and practical to support students’ learning.

The Director reassured Grade 12 students and families that students who are on track for graduating this June will do so. Guidance Counsellors and Lead Student Success teachers have created dedicated website to navigate any changes.

The board's Educational Services team has reached out to at-risk and students with special needs and this work will continue. The board is committed to doing everything it can to support the well-being of our entire Limestone community.

The board is present at various community partnership tables and are grateful for our guidance from Chief Medical Officer of Health and the team at KFL&A Public Health. Bmtg

The board continues to partner with The Food Sharing Project which is providing hundreds of food hampers per week to our most vulnerable families in need with the support of some staff and dedicated volunteers in our community. Almost 500 families are being supported by this initiative.

Central office staff in human resources, financial, facilities and information technology services, our program team and communications are pulling out all the stops to keep the district humming. The Director shared her pride in her staff and all that they have done and all that they will continue to do to put our students first.

OPSBA Report

Trustee Laurie French provided a brief update from the Ontario Public School Boards' Association. The last in-person meeting was held in February. There was discussion on: how boards are introducing Indigenous student trustees and best practices handbook for student trustees in development. The Board passed a motion to introduce, in partnership with the Ontario Student Trustees' Association, two student trustee scholarships valued at $500 for post-secondary education. Trustee French indicated that a number of OPSBA activities cancelled or deferred including MPP Day and the Annual General Meeting.

Student Trustee Report

Student Trustee Jessica Crook shared that InterSchool Council's upcoming event was cancelled due to COVID-19. She thanked all council members who put time and effort into planning.

Student Trustee elections are coming up on May 4 where students will elect the Board's first Indigenous Student Trustee to represent both urban and rural high schools. This process has moved online but will use the same process as electing existing student trustees. Each high school will select Indigenous student representatives who will then come together to elect the Indigenous Student Trustee.

Trustee Annika Putnam shared that she and Trustee Crook wanted to thank Limestone’s teachers, administrators and board office staff for their support during these trying times. She indicated their thanks, on behalf of students, for everyone's patience, flexibility, understanding and hard work. She also recognized students and families who are doing their best to adapt to distance learning despite various barriers. She singled out Limestone's efforts to make distance learning more accessible to all by providing over 2,000 devices to students.

Reports for Information: Quarter 2 Financials

Superintendent of Business Craig Young and Financial Services Manager Myra Baumann provided the Interim Financial Operating expenditures for September 2019 to February 2020 (Quarter 2).

As at Quarter 2, $121,423,445 of the $248,930,822 operating budget or 49% has been spent. Expenditures based upon items paid within stated period. Quarter 2 indicates a spending level of 49% which is 1% less than same period last year. The reduction related to savings as result of strike days. The board is on target to end the 2019-2020 fiscal year in a balanced-budget position.

In response to Trustee questions, Superintendent Young indicated that:

  • strike day savings are a result of staff not being paid if they are striking
  • there are savings related to bus transportation due to school closures; Ministry direction is to continue paying operators but there is no expenditure for fuel
  • there will be some savings in next quarter due to savings on supplies such as PPE and cleaning supplies
  • there will be savings to trustee budget as no travel is occurring

Reports for Information: Emergency Remote Learning Plan

Director Rantz provided update on Emergency Remote Learning Plan. School boards across Ontario were directed by Ministry of Education to draft a continuity of learning plan to begin April 6, 2020 due to COVID-19 extended closure.

Director noted that one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work in LDSB due to urban/rural mix of district. Here is a snapshot of some of the work during COVID-19. She clarified there is no new funding for technology as Minister announced re availability of iPads. LDSB working with families still in need. As of now, there are a small number of students without devices. Our biggest need is Internet connection.

Superintendent Krishna Burra provided a further update. More than 2000 devices have been deployed to students. Over the next few weeks, the board should be able to resolve Internet access needs identified by schools.There will, however, still be few families where we cannot assist as there is a lack of WiFi or data in their geographical area.

Director Rantz indicated staff will continue to evaluate current needs and change learning and teaching plans as needed and provide student accommodations or additional support as needed.

Finally, the Director shared that staff are working on a survey to obtain feedback from students, families and staff to inform plans going forward.

In response to Trustee questions, Director Rantz responded:

  • board is preparing contingency plans for second wave later this fall and will follow all public health directives
  • families who require may receive print packages if that is required
  • board is prepared to deal with loss or broken devices
  • board awaiting final direction of building access protocol to allow staff to obtain additional learning materials
  • student with special needs are being served remotely by Educational Services staff including tele-counselling and referrals for other services
  • PA Days and exams have been cancelled as per Minister announcement but board is awaiting further info and direction

Report for Information: Kingston Secondary School

Final report was an update on Kingston Secondary School from Superintendent Young. Work on the new school site continued throughout March adhering to COVID-19 protocols. There were some delays and reduced workforce as a result.

Unfortunately, all non-essential construction was halted on April 4, 2020 as a result of emergency orders from the province. LDSB had hoped project would be declared essential work but it was not. At time of work stoppage, construction was at 93 per cent complete with planned September opening date.

If the board is allowed to resume construction, we are looking at a later completion date. It would likely take about four weeks for construction to ramp back up to full speed.

Families will receive communication directly this week.

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.