The 2019-2020 school year in the Limestone District School Board was truly unlike any we have ever experienced. Despite labour disruptions and the extended school closure because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been another year of growth for students, staff and the Board of Trustees.
For the first time, the 2020 Limestone Student Trustee election included a new Indigenous Student Trustee position to represent both urban and rural high schools. The process was moved online using the same process for electing existing Student Trustees. Each high school selected an Indigenous student representative who then elected the Indigenous Student Trustee.
A delayed Grants for Student Needs process required the Budget Meeting schedule to be adjusted. Despite the delay, and funding challenges related to the extended school closure, staff presented a balanced budget to the Board of Trustees for approval. Trustees approved a balanced budget of $254.1 million for operations for the 2020-2021 school year. Most of the operating budget – almost 79% – is directed to instruction and relates directly to the classroom.
Throughout the late spring and summer, Trustees continued to advocate for appropriate funding to maintain student and staff safety and well-being during any return to school model. We were pleased to see both provincial and federal investments to address increasing and evolving COVID-19-related expenses. We are concerned that this funding may not be adequate as many costs remain estimations, and staff continue to track these expenses to ensure all available funding is used.
Despite the operational challenges of negotiating collective agreements during the pandemic, the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, the Council of Trustees’ Association and the provincial government reached central agreements with all education unions.
Trustees also completed the important task of selecting a new Director of Education following the retirement of former Director Debra Rantz. Former Superintendent of Education Krishna Burra was welcomed into his new role in late August 2020 following an extensive executive search process.
While some work on the third year of the Board’s five-year strategic plan was stalled due to labour and pandemic-related disruptions, staff adapted action plans where possible and made meaningful progress in our key pillar areas. Trustees reviewed the Year-End Report for the 2019-2020 school year at the November 2020 Board Meeting.
The 2019-2020 school year was certainly not what we planned for, but there is still much to celebrate. Year-end graduations, awards and retirements moved to virtual recognitions but that did not in any way diminish the wonderful accomplishments of our students and staff. You can learn more about some of this work in the various stories of Wellness, Innovation and Collaboration linked to this report.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to all staff, students and families for their flexibility, patience and understanding as the board supported student well-being and the continuity of learning during emergency remote learning.