Late reorganizations won’t happen again ‘because of this year’s experience,’ says HWDSB chair

·3 min read

As a major reorganization relocated hundreds of students and educators to new classrooms and schools across the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, chair Alex Johnstone told families at a Hamilton town hall meeting that the board won’t initiate a late-semester reorganization in future years.

“I think if we’re in the same position next September, a later reorganization won’t be something we’ll consider because of this year’s experience,” Johnstone said Thursday evening.

In recent weeks, the board has initiated a process that’s forced 400 educators to move to new classrooms and schools, some switching from online to in-person teaching and vice versa, and students to expand their cohorts and lose the teachers who’ve been educating them since September.

The reorganizations are a yearly process that typically begin near the end of September and affect a small number of students and teachers.

This year, however, the process was magnified due to a major decrease in student enrolment and hundreds of students opting to switch between online and in-person classes.

The process also began later in the semester due to the board’s staggered reopening process and difficulties opening virtual classrooms. Late in August, an additional surge of 2,000 students registered for online courses, forcing the board to find dozens of new educators to teach online classrooms at the last-minute.

Only by early October did every student taking online classes have teachers.

Due to the delays, the board decided to push back school reorganizations to give families an opportunity to decide if they would prefer online or in-person classes instead of the classes their children initially enrolled in.

Johnstone, speaking at Thursday’s town hall meeting, said the delay caused difficulties for families whose children had become acquainted with their teachers.

“Hindsight’s always 20-20, but administratively, it made a tremendous amount of sense to delay the reorganizations,” Johnstone said.

“We wanted parents to have a feel for both remote and in-person learning before having another decision to make as to whether or not they would transition out or into remote class, but I think it was still very difficult.”

The HWDSB has said that a net total of 300 students will move to remote learning and 400 educators will be reassigned to new classrooms and schools.

A total of 800 students have moved to online class while 500 students have opted for in-person learning.

On top of the switch, a recent board report revealed that there are 1,756 fewer students enrolled in the HWDSB than initially projected, meaning the board is not eligible for the provincial funding it had initially anticipated.

According to board administrators, the board will not receive $15.2 million in funding due to the decline, which has resulted in a potential $10-million deficit by the end of the school year.

A petition circulating online last week, calling for a stop to the reorganization, has received north of 2,000 signatures.

“This has been an extremely difficult year in terms of reorganizations. I know a lot of families and staff were extremely disappointed with this news, and across the system it’s impacted many families,” Johnstone said.

Jacob Lorinc, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator