School's Out for Summer!!
It's hard to believe, but today closes out the final week of the 2018-2019 school year. Today, the kids are officially on school break and teachers and staff are wrapping up work with a P.A. Day. Where did the year go?
As your Trustee in the Toronto District School Board, the last two months have largely been spent in a whirlwind of intense committee work and challenging board meetings, capped off by a tour of Ward 11 graduations. While I couldn't get to every single graduation, as many were held on the same day at the same time, I do want to extend my congratulations to all graduating families. It is a special time for all of our graduates and I wish them much success as they move on to new schools, new adventures and new experiences! It was beyond inspiring to watch so many beaming faces cross the stages to receive their well-earned diplomas from proud administrators and teachers, who recognize the hard work, challenges and individual accomplishments faced by these students!
Below you will find a detailed and important recap of the finalized 2019-2020 TDSB Operating Budget and a summary of some significant changes coming to our French language programs, among other items. I apologize in advance for the length of this message, but there are some really important and complicated pieces of information I wanted to update everyone on. I encourage you to learn more through the links provided throughout the newsletter, and, as always, feel free to contact me with questions and concerns at Rachel.Chernoslin@tdsb.on.ca.
2019-2020 BALANCED OPERATING BUDGET
Under the Education Act, School Boards are required by law to pass a balanced budget by June 30th of each year.
On June 19th, Trustees approved a budget reduction plan for the 2019-20 school year
that included $67.8 million in staff reductions and changes to program and service delivery. The reductions were required to offset $42.1 million in Ministry of Education funding cuts and a structural budget deficit of $25.7 million. While the focus of the Board’s attention has been on budget reductions, we will maintain, and in some cases exceed, funding for key areas such as Special Education, Early Years Literacy & Intervention, school safety and security, Model Schools and initiatives to promote equity and Anti-Racism initiatives throughout the school system.
Although trustees did manage to save some parts of programs and services that were initially on the chopping block, there is no doubt that these reductions will be felt across the system and many families will be affected. We focussed as much as possible on reductions that have as little student impact as possible, and these cuts were not taken lightly, nor should they be seen as a reflection on the work performed by staff affected by these changes.
The budget process began back in January, and was, we believe, the most extensive and most transparent budget ever undertaken by a school board in this province. Between January and June, trustees conducted 20 budget committee meetings (all open to the public), and trustees heard from thousands of TDSB staff, students, parents and community members in a variety of ways -- including over 100 in-person public deputations, several hundred written public deputations submitted to our Board, and literally hundreds and hundreds of emails delivered to our inboxes. It was, quite honestly, impossible to answer each and every email personally, but each one was read and considered as part of this process. The passion and knowledge shared by all stakeholders shaped my understanding of the issues and helped all trustees navigate a very challenging situation.
Many folks did call on trustees to refuse to pass a balanced budget. I can understand why some people felt we should use this tactic, as these cuts are certainly not for the benefit of our school system or our students. However, to vote down the cuts, and say no to cuts to education, in my view, would have likely had much more severe consequences for our publicly-funded system. Had trustees not passed a balanced budget, the province would have had the right to remove trustees from this process and appoint a supervisor to make whatever cuts the province deemed appropriate, without consultation and without oversight. I was not willing to risk such a fate for our children's education. Although this was not a budget that I felt happy to pass, I continue to feel very strongly that our Board made informed decisions through careful, deliberative and thoughtful processes, and while we could not save every program or service valued by the public, I feel confident we did the very best we could under, quite frankly, terrible circumstances.
I will endeavour to outline only a few of the reductions below that I feel will be felt most significantly by Ward 11 schools and families or may cause families to worry. To get a more complete picture of all reductions, please click here.
There are a lot of cuts, to many departments of the board, so the below snapshot in no way provides a complete picture. If you have questions about the budget reductions or need more explanation, please feel free to email me at Rachel.ChernosLin@tdsb.on.ca.
* TDSB will no longer provide TTC tickets to grade 9-12 gifted and French Extended/Immersion students effective September 2019 to students who previously qualified through living >4.8km.
* Busing will continue for grade 4-5 gifted and grade SK-5 French Extended/Immersion students as usual for the 2019-2020 school year.
* Beginning in September 2020, busing will be reduced for gifted grade 4-5 students and French Immersion/Extended JK-5 by $1.5 million dollars. This will be based on revised LOI, distance and location of programs. Staff will spend time this summer and fall figuring out how and where these reductions will happen.
* Also in the 2020-2021 school year, bell times at schools will be adjusted to improve efficiency of bus routes and reduce the number of buses needed within our system, amounting to a savings of $2.5M. This may impact childcare arrangements based on new pick-up and drop-off times.
* Should the financial strain of these changes to transportation present a barrier, please contact your child's school principal.
International Baccalaureate Program
* Elementary and Middle School IB programs have been eliminated (in Ward 11, this affects Harrison PS and Windfields Middle School). The Secondary School level IB program will continue to run, however beginning September 2020, fees will be charged for secondary IB programs. There are no IB secondary schools in Ward 11, however, if your child has applied to one, it is important to be aware to this change in the requirements. This fall, staff will be working on a sliding-scale bursary programs for students who could not otherwise attend the program due to financial constraints.
The number of lunchroom supervisors employed by the TDSB will be reduced by approximately 11% beginning in September 2020. It should be noted that these reductions will be assigned specifically to kindergarten classrooms of 15 or less students who previously had one supervisor all to themselves. Instead, administrators at each school will sort out the best lunchtime routine for these classes -- so that, for example, students are divided up to the remaining kindergarten classes to spread so that appropriate ratios are maintained and all children remain cared for in a supportive and safe environment.
FRENCH-AS-A-SECOND LANGUAGE PROGRAM REVIEW
At the June 19th Board Meeting, trustees also approved recommendations on French Programming that will bring significant changes to French programming throughout our Board. These came out of a comprehensive French as Second Language Program Review conducted in the spring of 2018. Its goal was to identify program needs and recommend strategies for ensuring the ongoing viability of and improving access for all students to intensive FSL Programs as well as Core French.
The Board decided:
(a) That the following recommendations on the findings of the French-as-a-Second Language program review, as presented in the report, be approved:
(i) That Intensive French-as-a-Second-Language programs be restructured leading to a single intensive French Immersion program model with two entry points (Junior Kindergarten and Grade 4), and that all other entry points be eliminated;
(ii) That a minimum intake and a maximum cap be established at the entry points, to ensure program viability and to account for attrition rates;
(iii) That a Core French action plan be developed;
(iv) That inclusive practices in all FSL programs be ensured;
(v) That the current plan for the recruitment and retention of FSL teachers be strengthened;
(b) That stakeholders be broadly consulted on the implementation plans for items (a) (i) to (v) above;
(c) That the Director report back to the Board in October 2019 for approval of next steps regarding:
(i) Core French action plan
(ii) Implementation of a proposed transportation plan
(iii) Development of a redistribution plan for French immersion programs to improve equity of access
(iv) Revision of operational procedure, PR597, French Immersion/Extended French.
What does all this mean for French programming and timelines?
In fairly simple terms, the main points that affect Ward 11 most significantly are as follows (please note that timelines remain unconfirmed):
* French Immersion will be moving to 2 entry points, in JK and grade 4 (timelines are still uncertain but 2020 is the anticipated start date for JK). There will eventually no longer be an entry point in SK. Both the JK and grade 4 immersion programs will merge in grade 9 into one French Immersion stream.
* Extended French will be phased out and replaced with grade 4 French Immersion (noted above). The last class entering Extended French will be in September 2020.
* French Immersion programs will be redistributed to ensure equitable access across the system
* Revamping of the Core French program
Please note that many of the details regarding the operationalization of these changes are still to be determined. Now that the Board has accepted the recommendations by staff, and given staff the direction to move forward, work will begin immediately on the implementation of these coming changes. Staff will be providing us with a Q&A to help students and parents understand the transition process, and by early fall, we expect staff to come back to trustees with more details on the implementation process. It goes without saying that these are bold new steps that we hope will truly strengthen our Board's french programming, and though we know change can sometimes be hard, we do think these will improve our delivery of French throughout the TDSB. In the meantime, I would encourage all families to read the report that was approved at the meeting on June 19th by clicking here.
SECONDARY-SCHOOL PROGRAM REVIEW
Also in June, the Board gave staff direction to begin a secondary-school program review. This was felt necessary because due to the amalgamation of the GTA school boards many years ago, we have been left with an existing structure of secondary schools across the TDSB that is out of sync with the recent strategic and visionary documents approved by the Board.
As a result, the Board of Trustees approved the Secondary-School Program Review so that all secondary school students across the TDSB can have equitable access to stronger programs and richer pathways, as close to home as possible. The system will need to be re-envisioned and re-drawn to support this goal, and this process will take much planning, deliberation and time. Now that the Board has approved the action plan for secondary school programs, as presented in the Report,
staff will begin working on the following:
During the summer of 2019, staff will refine the vision for secondary program and access to these programs; analyze current secondary programs and schools more closely to determine how they fit into the vision; and, examine related policies and procedures to determine which will require review.
In the fall of 2019, staff is expected to present a report to the Board with the vision for secondary program and access including a detailed action plan and critical path. This will will include studies to review secondary schools for potential closure (despite the overcrowding we tend to see in Ward 11 schools, this is not the case across our the TDSB).
As per the staff report, the vision is the result of more than two years of study supported by special attention to demographic and enrolment trends. The vision is based on historical and realistic future assessments of high school utilization patterns. Finally the vision is grounded in our most fundamental values relating to equity of educational opportunity as outlined in the Board’s multiyear strategic plan.
As more information becomes available in the fall, I will update Ward 11 of developments.
PUBLIC HEALTH VACCINATION CLINICS
The TDSB has been alerted that Toronto Public Health (TPH) has made a change to its vaccination policy, enabling all students in secondary schools aged 14 or older to provide informed consent at TPH clinics in secondary schools. This has been rolled out successfully in nearby boards and will allow TPH to respond more effectively should there be an outbreak (such as measles) or if there is a likelihood of a large number of suspensions due to lack of students being up to date on vaccines. Please note that all parents would be notified well in advance if a clinic was going to be held in one of our schools. To read more about this change, please read the provided letter from TPH by clicking here.
In closing, it gives me great pleasure to provide you with next year's school year calendar!
SCHOOL YEAR CALENDAR 2019-2020
The 2019-2020 school year at the TDSB begins
on Tuesday, September 3, 2019 following the Labour Day long weekend. For more information about important dates and holidays for the upcoming school year, please refer to the 2019-20 School Year Calendar.
The official school year calendar for the Toronto District School Board runs from September 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020, inclusive.
First day of classes for all students is September 3, 2019
The last day of class for elementary students is June 25, 2020
The last day of class for secondary (full year) students is June 23, 2020
The last day of class for secondary (semestered) students is June 23, 2020
And with that, I wish everyone a relaxing, healthy and fun-filled summer!
Rachel Chernos Lin
Ward 11 Trustee, Toronto District School Board