2021 Director’s Annual Report: Pandemic Portraits
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Exploring the Pandemic Portraits of HPEDSB
I am pleased to share Pandemic Portraits, the 2021 Director’s Annual Report. While I have the privilege of writing this introduction as the new Director of Education, this report represents the combined effort and commitment of 2,200+ employees throughout the organization. It is the leadership of not one, but many, that makes our system strong and enables us to learn together.
The past twelve months will be recognized as a unique year in education history. As a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the school year was spent in and out of in-person learning and constantly attending to safety concerns, including masking, sanitizing, cohorting and isolating. Students and staff started the calendar year learning remotely, returned to in-person and then back to remote learning due to virus spread. Through the combined efforts of our staff, students, families and communities, we returned to in-person learning in September, with access to extracurricular activities and relaxed cohorting.
Leading the governance table through a student-centred approach
It is impossible to recall 2021 without acknowledging COVID-19. Already into its second year, the pandemic saturated every part of our lives—from home, to school, to work, and beyond. The world continued to change, just as it did at HPEDSB. As an organization, our ability to respond ramped up to levels we never thought possible before. We became more adept at responding to uncertainty and being better prepared for the unexpected.
Throughout the year, the governance work of the Board of Trustees focused on the priorities outlined in the 2020-2025 Strategic Plan:
- Foster a Culture of High Excellence and High Expectations for All
- Promote Safety and Well-Being
- Strengthen Community through Equity and Social Justice
- Improve Student Success and Achievement
- Ensure Responsible Communications
Re-imagining investments in schools
More opportunity for fun with the new Marmora Public School playground
Being active outdoors and having equipment to play on can be the highlight a student’s day. At Marmora Public School, something delightful happened last fall, when the school received three separate play structures for K-8 students, along with swings and new benches.
Introducing the K-12 Central Hastings School
On September 7, 2021, the newly named Central Hastings School (CHS) opened as a K-12 school. This revitalized learning environment amalgamates two schools: Madoc Public School, which closed at the end of June 2021, and Centre Hastings Secondary School, which served students in Grades 9-12.
Peering through a virtual lens: How teaching and learning adapted during the pandemic
The pandemic introduced many drastic changes to education delivery, by far the greatest of scope being the creation of separate, dedicated virtual schools. Beginning September 2020, for the first time in Ontario history, elementary and secondary school students could pursue entirely online learning to avoid the uncertainties of COVID-19 outside their homes.
As of February 2021, there were 1,380 Kindergarten to Grade 12 students enrolled in the elementary and secondary virtual schools, the students coming from every school in the district. The students were supported by 73 teaching staff, six educational support staff, three full-time office staff, two vice-principals and one principal. In the fall of 2021, the elementary and secondary virtual school evolved into one K-10 Virtual School.
Precision focus on learning during the pandemic
Mathematics assessment tools and coaching
In 2020, a new elementary Mathematics curriculum was introduced in Ontario, updating the content of math curriculum and the methods used to deliver it. To support this change, HPEDSB developed new K-8 mathematics assessment tools, founded in the new curriculum, to assist educators and administrators in knowing their learners and creating the best strategies to support their achievement. These tools focused on the fundamentals of math, including whole numbers, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, decimals, and percentages.
Mathematics professional learning
As part of our commitment to learning together with our students, HPEDSB enhanced professional development in mathematics for educators by sponsoring various learning opportunities in 2021.
French language instruction
In 2021, HPEDSB enhanced French language learning by providing new digital programs to all elementary schools. The new programs, C’est Parti (Grades 4-6 Core French) and Mon réseau, ma vie (Grades 7-8 Core French) are engaging resources that focus on verbal communication through action-oriented tasks in practical, real-life situations.
English Language Learners (ELLs)
English language learners (ELLs) are students whose first language is a language other than English who may require focused educational support to assist them in attaining English proficiency. These students may be Canadian born or recently arrived from other countries. They come from diverse backgrounds and school experiences, with a wide variety of strengths and individual needs.
Grades 1-8 summer learning program
Recognizing the impacts of the pandemic on student learning, the Ministry of Education provided funding to school boards to deliver summer learning programming to students in Grades 1-8 to mitigate learning loss during the course of the summer, to support increased student achievement, and to close learning gaps in literacy and numeracy.
Positive outcomes from Indigenous summer programs
Two indigenous summer programs that support the transition of students from Grade 8 into secondary school ran in August 2021. One was hosted in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, the other was held at the Boundless School in Palmer Rapids.
Twelve Grade 8 students from Quinte Mohawk School, registered to attend Eastside Secondary School in Grade 9, participated in the program. The program was organized as a day camp, with students dropped off and picked up at a central location each of day from August 23 to 27. The theme for this program in Kanyen’kéha (Mohawk) was Enskattsiró:ten – which translates to Rekindling My Fire.
Boundless School – Palmer Rapids
Eleven self-identified Indigenous students attending Grade 8 at North Hastings High School participated in this program from August 25 to 29. The students and three staff spent five days at The Boundless School, an outdoor education center. Like the group in Tyendinaga, the participants opted to use the same theme, but in Anishnaabemowin, which translates to Maadijse Podaaweishkode – Rekindling My Fire.
Snapshot of alternative learning models at secondary school
As the pandemic stretched into 2021, educators and students developed a new relationship with the term “pivot.” Never before had such unprecedented changes to education delivery happened so rapidly, frequently, and on such a large scale.
At the start of 2021, the cautious return to in-person learning had imposed a change for secondary students from typical 4-course semesters, to single-subject octomesters, where students went from four 75-minute classes to a full-day class of 300 minutes. This single-subject cohort would limit the number of shared spaces and in-person exposures in the school, reducing the chance of COVID-19 transmission.
Painting the picture of Grade 9 Math single streaming
In September 2021, students entering Grade 9 were the first to experience a new approach to Grade 9 Mathematics. Courses in Grade 9 Applied and Academic Math were discontinued, and a single streamed course was introduced, Foundational Mathematics. The change was intended to provide every student with a solid secondary-level math foundation to support their understanding, ability and confidence. In the past, students who were Black, Indigenous, racialized, or from other marginalized backgrounds, were more often directed to the Applied stream. Introducing the new Grade 9 math course was the first step to removing early streaming in Ontario.
Focusing on equity of opportunity and access through the Equity Action Plan
Equity, diversity and inclusion may have different meanings for everyone. Equity of opportunity and equity of access to all programs, services, and resources are critical to well-being and to the achievement of successful outcomes for all students.
HPEDSB is committed to excellence in education and supporting optimal student learning and achievement. Our role in HPEDSB is to ensure everyone finds their place to thrive in the work and in the learning. Our ultimate goal is for schools to be equitable, accessible and inclusive environments—places where all students, staff, parents/guardians and community members feel safe, appreciated, and respected for their unique contributions to the HPEDSB family.
Striving for precision with the inaugural This is Me in HPE census
In 2021, HPEDSB, along with other Ontario school boards, completed a census of their staff and students. Directed by the Ministry of Education under the Anti-Racism Act, 2017 and Ontario’s Education Equity Action Plan, school boards were to collect data and report on the data they collected, in order to gain a clearer understanding of the needs of their school communities. The census questions focused on individuals’ gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, disability, and other identity-based data, the goals being to identify and address systemic barriers to student success, close gaps in services, and guide decisions that support more equitable outcomes for all students and staff.
Lighting the way to summer mental health supports
In response to the additional strains on student mental health resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Education provided funds to retain regulated mental health supports over the summer months while schools were on break.
Social workers and social services workers were available over the summer to ensure continuity of service and provide support to 89 students and families. Over the summer, there were 332 virtual contacts made and 112 in-person home visits.
A dynamic collage of pandemic responses from support teams
The HPEDSB Information Technology (IT) and Facilities Services teams faced many new challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic throughout 2021. Featured here are highlights of the work completed by these teams to keep students and staff safe and learning together in a shifting learning environment.
Showcasing the Arts during the pandemic
Virtual Secondary Arts Show
In June 2021, HPEDSB hosted the first ever Virtual Secondary Arts Show, titled “Art in the Pandemic”. The traditional Secondary Arts Show would have seen its 32nd annual gallery event in the spring of 2020, with a showcase of exceptional student artwork displayed at the John M. Parrott Art Gallery in the Belleville Public Library. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was unfortunately cancelled.
Sophiasburg Central School: Small but mighty in song
In September 2021, the Sophiasburg Central School Grade 7/8 class received new ukeleles through the fund-raising efforts of their school council. Weeks later, music teacher Misu Burns registered the class to participate in the CBC Music Class Challenge performing Ginalina’s song “Small But Mighty”.