May 21, 2021
Board Highlights for May Meeting
The following are the highlights of the Near North District School Board meeting of Tuesday, May 18, 2021.
North Bay secondary schools consolidation update
A report from Superintendent Gay Smylie provided Trustees with an update to the 3:2 consolidation of North Bay’s secondary schools. Many upgrades are set to begin this spring at both Chippewa and West Ferris Secondary Schools.
The Phase 2 budget was approved in October 2020, with the majority of investment to renovate the libraries and auditoriums. The spaces are required to be flexible and adaptable, as they are multi-purpose areas that are used for classes, presentations and productions. Multiple stakeholders were consulted to ensure the spaces were conducive to creativity and innovation for learners will maintaining flexibility.
Renovations to the auditorium at Chippewa will benefit performers and the audience. There will be a new curtain system and mechanical track installed, modernized lighting including a switch from incandescent towards LED, new seating including an area for wheelchair access.
There was also an investment in Phase 2 to support programming.
A classroom at West Ferris will be retrofitted to support experiential learning programs including hairstyling and esthetics. The Indigenous Hub at Chippewa is being updated to provide casual seating and small group meeting spaces and a kitchenette, and etched glazing will increase natural light while providing privacy for students.
The libraries at both secondary schools are being transformed into learning commons, with flexible seating to accommodate a variety of configurations and barrier-free shelving to increase accessibility. Glazing is used to create individual, small and large group seating options, and space is used innovatively with the creation of built-in banquette seating and an outdoor working/learning space. Electrical outlets have been placed throughout the learning commons to ensure all have access to a power source for electronic devices.
Conceptual designs can be viewed as part of the report in the agenda package.
Virtual learning planning for 2021-2022
Superintendent Tim Graves’ report updated Trustees on the board’s plans for providing virtual learning to students in 2021-2022.
Boards across the province, including NNDSB, have been contemplating how they will offer remote learning in September. The two most common models – virtual school and hybrid – each have benefits and challenges.
The virtual school model operates as its own school, with staff and students reassigned from their home schools. In some boards, families were asked to choose their option early, so virtual schools could be staffed, but NNDSB hopes to avoid early decisions which must be made without a clear understanding of the most current requirements for in-school and virtual learning as laid out by the Provincial Government, Ministry of Education and local health authorities.
The majority of school boards using the virtual school model have restricted or eliminated options to change between virtual and in-class learning during the school year. This is because the changes require system reorganizations which disrupt classroom placements for students and cohort groupings for thousands of students in both in-school and remote learning. Continuity and familiarity are proven to reduce stress for staff and students.
In the hybrid model, virtual school and in-school are not separate programs. Teachers instruct students in their classrooms and provide synchronous (same time), asynchronous and/or paper packages for students at home. Hybrid classes offer the students at home a chance to engage with their instructors and classmates for virtual discussions and lectures, but they can also complete coursework online.
Boards that use the hybrid model don’t face the same staffing concerns, but there are pedagogical challenges for teachers, who must provide synchronous and asynchronous instruction to in-class and at-home learners.
Because of the above-mentioned challenges, NNDSB’s senior team has been collecting data for the past 18 months and had delayed making a final decision while waiting for further Ministry clarification on remote learning expectations. Earlier this month the Ministry announced funding opportunities to support virtual learning and asked that families wait to make their decision until June 1, 2021.
There were also additional safety requirements outlined for the return to school in-class, including cohort limitations and the restriction of the numbers of classes students can take at one time.
Staff continue to review funding details, safety strategies and the benefits and challenges of each option in order to identify the learning model that provides the greatest educational experience for students.
Families can expect communication that provides specific information about the 2021-2022 school year which will outline health and safety measures and protocols for in-school learning, a thoughtful and accessible approach to remote learning, and a straightforward process for registering students.
Budget procedures manual outlines process, timeline
In keeping with NNDSB’s commitment to governance and transparency, a budget manual has been created that outlines the structure of the budget process, clarifies roles in the process and provides deadlines for the process so that the finance team is able to present the budget to trustees on schedule. The documented process keeps current staff on track throughout the process and supports good succession planning when the board is transitioning senior staff.
The manual outlines the roles and responsibilities of the Superintendent of Business and Treasurer for coordinating the overall budget, superintendents for developing and coordinating budgets within their areas of responsibility, department managers for overseeing budget preparation for their departments, the finance committee for providing direction and priorities for the coming year and to review draft budgets and to the Board of Trustees who establish goals and objectives and approve the final budget.
Outlined in the document are timelines for announcements from the Ministry of Education, requirements for a balanced budget under the Education Act and the deadline for submitting a balanced budget to the Ministry.
Trustees updated on Parry Sound JK-12 build
Trustees were updated on plans that the new Parry Sound JK-12 school anticipated to open in September 2023. The update for the Board came via a report from the Parry Sound Build Committee, whose May meeting featured a presentation by +VG Architects (the Ventin Group).
The committee meeting was attended by +VG’s Paul Sapounzi and Ed Bourdeau, who shared a review of project developments, including a timeline and project stages. The first phase includes a partial demolition this summer, ensuring students have a functional school to attend in September 2021 while construction begins on the new building.
Plans include the demolition of the north side of the current building (library area), while maintaining the cafeteria and shop areas. The two-storey school will feature two wings forming an L-shape: a childcare/elementary wing and a secondary wing. Main elements will be located on the first floor (cafeteria, lobby, gym, administration offices). The second floor will be academic wings, with seven additional elementary classrooms and private study areas. The rear wing will house technology areas, and science and technology wings are being overlaid to make the best use of ventilation systems.
Survey shows NNDSB earning stakeholder trust
Data gathered in surveys taken after each of the six virtual Multi-Year Strategic Plan (MYSP) sessions indicated that NNDSB has begun to earn stakeholder trust, as respondents stated the board has come a long way in building trust and cautioned the board to maintain a focus on excellence in relationships.
The MYPS’s has four priority areas: Excellence in Teaching and Learning, Excellence in Communication, Excellence in Relationships and Excellence in Innovation. Excellence in Teaching and Learning was identified as the priority area that was most important to the greatest number of survey respondents. Excellence in Relationships was identified most often as the areas in which NNDSB needed improvement, and Excellence in Teaching and Learning and Excellence in Communication were tied for the areas in which most respondents thought NNDSB was performing best.
The MYSP draft is in its final stages and will be edited and revised before it is finalized for presentation to the Board of Trustees at the June 2021 meeting. The Board Improvement Plan for Student Achievement and Well-Being is a living document that will be updated and modified to meet the needs of the entire NNDSB school community and Ministry-mandated expectations as they arise.
The information session presentation (and all other MYSP documentation) is available on the MYSP page.
Projects sought for Trustee Initiative Fund
Chair Aspin shared as part of his report that he would like staff to investigate potential projects for investment by the Trustee Initiative Fund. There is $35,000 left due to the cancellation of events due to COVID. Funds are to be used for events that unify students across the board. Expending this fund was recognized by the Finance Committee as well.
Note: the full agenda package is posted on the website prior to meetings, and official minutes are posted after they are approved at the next board meeting.
Information about Near North District School Board:
Near North District School Board is an English-language public school board serving the North Bay – Parry Sound – Nipissing area. The Board consists of approximately 10,000 students in 27 elementary schools, seven secondary/senior schools and various alternative learning centres. For more information, please visit nearnorthschools.ca and follow Near North District School Board on Social media.
For more information, please contact:
Deb Bartlett (she/her)
Near North District School Board
P. (705) 472-8170 ext. 5010