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School board to decide on use of reserve funds

Reserve funds will add teachers, staff in schools

Durham District School Board trustees (DDSB) are looking at approving a plan on how to use $8.1 million in reserve funds to help keep students and staff safe.

In a special board meeting which took place on Tuesday, Sept. 8 at 8:30 p.m., after The Express deadline, Active Director of Education Norah Marsh presented a Reserve Fund Mitigation Plan to trustees on how to use up to one per cent of the board’s 2020 operating budget.

According to the report, the main focus of the Reserve Fund Mitigation Plan is to increase staffing.

“This is a dynamic situation and having additional qualified staff in place to support students in staying safe is, in our view, the most effective way to mitigate risk,” the report reads.

The mitigation plan includes an additional 40 to 45 full-time teachers. While the report states the board was able to achieve the minimum one-metre spacing guidelines within the classrooms, the additional staff will help to address pressure points within the district.

The plan also includes an additional 35 Early Childhood Educators for Kindergarten classes, as well as creating a Pandemic Academic Response Team.

“An important aspect of risk mitigation is for students to stay home when there is a question of being COVID-19 positive,” the report reads.

The pandemic response team would be deployed to assist with students who are required to be home for individual reasons and serve to liaise between classroom teachers and students who are home for intervals, allowing the classroom teacher to remain focused on those students in the classroom.

This program would become active once a student has exceeded five consecutive days of absence due to illness or needing to self-isolate.

Lastly, part of the reserve funds would be allocated for 110 Elementary Pandemic Supervision Support Staff, noting supervision within the schools will be more of a challenge due to staggered recess and lunch times.