Pandemic fallout: Board staff working to bring hundreds of students home

The Thames Valley District School Board is still trying to bring back some of the hundreds of children who lost attendance amid the COVID-19 pandemic, an official said.

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The Thames Valley District School Board is still trying to bring back some of the hundreds of children who lost attendance amid the COVID-19 pandemic, an official said.

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By April, social workers and school counselors had contacted more than 700 students, particularly kindergarten children and children from Indigenous and Low German-speaking communities, with the help of $770,000 in funding from the ministry. of Education, said board superintendent Tracy Langelaan.

“Their main focus has been to re-engage elementary and high school students who had been expelled due to continued absenteeism,” she said.

Their efforts resulted in 50% of those students returning to school, Langelaan said. Another 25 percent had moved to another school board. Most of the others opted for home schooling.

“A very small percentage of our students who are over 18. . . have opted not to return to class, but those options remain available,” Langelaan said. “Our team will continue to reach out to these students to make sure they know that finishing high school is always an open door for them.”

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During the 2020-2021 school year, Ontario students spent at least 27 weeks learning online as part of efforts to curb the rise in the number of COVID-19 cases. There have been continued disruptions this school year as classes or schools have moved online due to COVID outbreaks.

Amid these disruptions, some students have simply disappeared from the education system.

In June 2021, the province provided funding to support recovery of learning, “specific to student re-engagement. . . disproportionately affected by the pandemic,” Langelaan said.

“Thames Valley used this money to address learning disruptions for students facing barriers to success,” she said. “We really focused on increasing our existing supports, with strategies to support learning recovery, students who had delayed enrollment during the pandemic and to really support our families with new learners at the kindergarten.”

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They also sought to “connect with families who may have left our school system” through home visits, Mennonite Low German podcasts, and door-to-door registration events in Low German communities. and indigenous people, she said.

It was difficult to identify the groups whose learning was hardest hit by the pandemic, Langelaan said. “It varied depending on family circumstances, the health of the family and their level of comfort.

“So many factors went into the family’s ability to connect with the learning environment,” she said. “We are very grateful to have these funds to approach the system from a holistic approach.”

Funding also went to supports for early literacy, re-engagement of virtual learners and support for parents.

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