TDSB replaces elementary school guidance counsellors with newly defined role amid opposition from teachers’ union

The Toronto District School Board has replaced traditional elementary school guidance counsellors and student success counsellors with a newly created combined position, despite opposition from the local teachers’ union.The Elementary Teachers of Toronto says it is now seeking clarity from the TDSB on the role of the 69 newly hired Middle Years Student Success Counsellors, some of whom were not deployed to any schools until Oct. 18, the union said — six weeks into the school year.Concerns were also raised about how this change will affect students who need one-on-one mental health support — traditionally offered by guidance counsellors — at a time when those needs have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The TDSB dropped the completion of qualification courses that focus on counselling techniques and mental health in their hiring requirements for the new roles.“The board announced that they were essentially disbanding the guidance counsellor role that was historically there,” said Jamie Thom, vice-president of the Elementary Teachers of Toronto, adding they did so after reassigning all guidance counsellors into full-time teaching roles in the 2020-21 school year due to teacher shortages. The TDSB first notified the union around March of its plans to replace both guidance counsellors — formally called elementary itinerant counsellors — and student success counsellors, who are tasked with helping students struggling to meet learning objectives, with one role, called Middle Years Student Success Counsellors. T.J. Goertz, a spokesperson for the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, said his organization is not aware of any other public school board in Ontario making the same changes as the TDSB. Province-wide, there are fewer elementary schools with guidance counsellors than secondary schools. In 2018, 31 per cent of Greater Toronto Area elementary schools had a guidance counsellor — more than triple that of any other region in Ontario. According to the union, the board employed 27 elementary itinerant counsellors and 42 student success counsellors at the elementary level prior to this change, adding up to 69 positions in total that were rebranded under the new Middle Years counselling role.For the Toronto board, the change will mandate counsellors to “support closing learning gaps, mental health and well-being and career exploration,” according to TDSB spokesperson Marcy McMillan. She added the counsellors will be assigned to fewer schools than before, resulting in them “having more time with students in each school.”These new roles do not require the completion of Guidance and Career Education courses as a prerequisite — a requirement that existed for the board’s elementary itinerant counsellors prior to the change.Ryan Bird, spokesperson for the TDSB, said the qualifications for the new role were changed because Middle Years counsellors “require a deep understanding of transitions from elementary school to secondary school,” and therefore need a diverse set of expertise beyond what the guidance qualification offers.He added mental health support was never the sole responsibility of guidance counsellors, and that each school in the TDSB is connected to social workers who can support students in crisis.“All staff play a role in supporting the well-being and mental health of students,” Bird said. “We know that students speak with staff members who they feel comfortable with — whether it’s a teacher, principal, guidance counsellor, etc.”The union immediately opposed plans to combine the mandates of student success counsellors and elementary itinerant counsellors, Thom said. A small committee of eight teachers who formerly held both roles met with the board around April, stressing the amalgamation of the two roles would be detrimental to both students and teachers, as guidance counsellors were already stretched too thin and students have greater mental health needs due to the pandemic.“We felt it was necessary to keep the academic support separate from the mental health support, not least because guidance counsellors are trained through additional qualification courses specifically in the role of guidance and what that entails,” Thom said, including providing social and emotional support for students and their families.“Middle school is a tricky time for kids anyways, but over the course of the pandemic, that’s only been exacerbated,” Thom added.Mental health of children has been on the radar of many pediatricians and psychiatrists after the lengthy period kids spent learning online, with a Hospital for Sick Children report from July stating more than half of children aged eight to 12 reported clinically significant depressive symptoms during the second wave of the pandemic. According to advocacy group People for Education’s annual Ontario school survey in 2018, 20 per cent of principals cited one-on-one counselling to students for mental health needs was the most time-consuming task for elementary s

TDSB replaces elementary school guidance counsellors with newly defined role amid opposition from teachers’ union

The Toronto District School Board has replaced traditional elementary school guidance counsellors and student success counsellors with a newly created combined position, despite opposition from the local teachers’ union.

The Elementary Teachers of Toronto says it is now seeking clarity from the TDSB on the role of the 69 newly hired Middle Years Student Success Counsellors, some of whom were not deployed to any schools until Oct. 18, the union said — six weeks into the school year.

Concerns were also raised about how this change will affect students who need one-on-one mental health support — traditionally offered by guidance counsellors — at a time when those needs have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The TDSB dropped the completion of qualification courses that focus on counselling techniques and mental health in their hiring requirements for the new roles.

“The board announced that they were essentially disbanding the guidance counsellor role that was historically there,” said Jamie Thom, vice-president of the Elementary Teachers of Toronto, adding they did so after reassigning all guidance counsellors into full-time teaching roles in the 2020-21 school year due to teacher shortages.

The TDSB first notified the union around March of its plans to replace both guidance counsellors — formally called elementary itinerant counsellors — and student success counsellors, who are tasked with helping students struggling to meet learning objectives, with one role, called Middle Years Student Success Counsellors.

T.J. Goertz, a spokesperson for the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, said his organization is not aware of any other public school board in Ontario making the same changes as the TDSB. Province-wide, there are fewer elementary schools with guidance counsellors than secondary schools. In 2018, 31 per cent of Greater Toronto Area elementary schools had a guidance counsellor — more than triple that of any other region in Ontario.

According to the union, the board employed 27 elementary itinerant counsellors and 42 student success counsellors at the elementary level prior to this change, adding up to 69 positions in total that were rebranded under the new Middle Years counselling role.

For the Toronto board, the change will mandate counsellors to “support closing learning gaps, mental health and well-being and career exploration,” according to TDSB spokesperson Marcy McMillan. She added the counsellors will be assigned to fewer schools than before, resulting in them “having more time with students in each school.”

These new roles do not require the completion of Guidance and Career Education courses as a prerequisite — a requirement that existed for the board’s elementary itinerant counsellors prior to the change.

Ryan Bird, spokesperson for the TDSB, said the qualifications for the new role were changed because Middle Years counsellors “require a deep understanding of transitions from elementary school to secondary school,” and therefore need a diverse set of expertise beyond what the guidance qualification offers.

He added mental health support was never the sole responsibility of guidance counsellors, and that each school in the TDSB is connected to social workers who can support students in crisis.

“All staff play a role in supporting the well-being and mental health of students,” Bird said. “We know that students speak with staff members who they feel comfortable with — whether it’s a teacher, principal, guidance counsellor, etc.”

The union immediately opposed plans to combine the mandates of student success counsellors and elementary itinerant counsellors, Thom said. A small committee of eight teachers who formerly held both roles met with the board around April, stressing the amalgamation of the two roles would be detrimental to both students and teachers, as guidance counsellors were already stretched too thin and students have greater mental health needs due to the pandemic.

“We felt it was necessary to keep the academic support separate from the mental health support, not least because guidance counsellors are trained through additional qualification courses specifically in the role of guidance and what that entails,” Thom said, including providing social and emotional support for students and their families.

“Middle school is a tricky time for kids anyways, but over the course of the pandemic, that’s only been exacerbated,” Thom added.

Mental health of children has been on the radar of many pediatricians and psychiatrists after the lengthy period kids spent learning online, with a Hospital for Sick Children report from July stating more than half of children aged eight to 12 reported clinically significant depressive symptoms during the second wave of the pandemic.

According to advocacy group People for Education’s annual Ontario school survey in 2018, 20 per cent of principals cited one-on-one counselling to students for mental health needs was the most time-consuming task for elementary school guidance counsellors, falling second to support for planning and academics at 50 per cent.

Thom said the union worries much of those responsibilities will fall back on teachers in the absence of dedicated and qualified guidance counsellors.

For Annie Kidder, executive director of People for Education, the creation of the Middle Years counsellor role could be a step in the right direction. Previously, guidance counsellors didn’t have a defined role, Kidder explained, forcing them to wear many hats in their supporting role for students.

“There’s no question guidance counsellors played a very important role for a number of reasons, but the descriptions of the role were vague and they were pulled in many directions,” Kidder said, adding it would be interesting to monitor whether this shift creates better outcomes for students.

But Kidder said the new role doesn’t address heightened mental health needs, and gaps in school-based support are still a pressing issue. “There is an ongoing concern about whether or not students have enough supports for their mental health and well-being, and this isn’t necessarily going to change that,” she said.

Six weeks into the school year, Thom said the union is still seeking clarity from the TDSB on how this decision will impact students and teachers moving forward, arguing the job description remains broad and vague.

“We have, as late as Tuesday, asked the TDSB to provide more details, more specifics in relation to exactly what it is these new positions are going to be doing and what they’re going to be responsible for, versus the classroom teacher,” Thom said. “We’re concerned ultimately that there’s a lack of clarity.”

Nadine Yousif is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering mental health. Follow her on Twitter: @nadineyousif_

Source : Toronto Star More   

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Today’s coronavirus news: India hits 1 billion vaccine doses; Canada Recovery Benefit is set to expire

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Thursday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.5:45 a.m.: Over a month into the school year, the province’s largest school boards are reporting staff vaccination rates ranging from a high of 94.8 per cent to a low of 76 per cent.But a Star analysis of 31 major boards has found inconsistencies in the way they report and present this information that make it difficult to compare rates between boards, and in most cases impossible for parents to know the rate of vaccination of teachers at their boards.Despite provincial direction that public school board employees disclose their vaccination status, the Star found that over 15,000 staff have not done so, and, because boards don’t break down the data by job category, it’s not clear what these people do.Read more from the Star’s Kenyon Wallace and May Warren.5:30 a.m.: Russia on Thursday registered the highest daily numbers of new coronavirus infections and deaths since the start of the pandemic as the authorities hoped to slow the spread by introducing a nonworking week.The government coronavirus task force reported 36,339 new confirmed infections and 1,036 deaths in the past 24 hours that brought Russia’s death toll to 227,389 — by far the highest in Europe.Russia’s daily infections have been surging for weeks and coronavirus mortality numbers topped 1,000 for the first time over the weekend amid low vaccination rates, lax public attitudes toward taking precautions and the government’s reluctance to tighten restrictions. Only about 45 million Russians — roughly a third of its nearly 146 million people — are fully vaccinated.President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday responded to rising contagion and deaths by ordering Russians to stay off work for a period starting Oct. 30 and extending through the following week, when four of seven days are already non-working, including a two-day state holiday. In some regions where the situation is the most threatening, he said the nonworking period could start as early as Saturday and be extended past Nov. 7.5:15 a.m.: The Canada Recovery Benefit is on the way out, the Star learned late Wednesday.Two sources told the Star that the benefit, which replaced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) last year, will be gone sooner rather than later. But some support will still be available for those who are not able to go to work temporarily because of strict lockdowns.The fate of the federal government’s soon-to-expire pandemic support measures could be revealed as early as Thursday.Supports for struggling businesses will remain in some form but be streamlined and made far more stringent in terms of applicants demonstrating losses.Read more from the Star’s Raisi Patel.5 a.m.: India has administered 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine, officials said Thursday, passing a milestone for the South Asian country where the delta variant fueled its first crushing surge earlier this year. About 75% of India’s total eligible adult population have received at least one dose, while around 30% are fully immunized. The country of nearly 1.4 billion people is the second to exceed a billion cumulative doses after the most populous country China did so in June. Coronavirus cases have fallen sharply in India since the devastating months at the start of the year when the highly transmissible delta variant, first detected in the country a year ago, was infecting hundreds of thousands daily, sending COVID-19 patients into overwhelmed hospitals and filling cremation grounds. Officials have bolstered the vaccination campaign in recent months, which experts say have helped control the outbreak since. The country began its drive in January. Still, there remains a worrying gap between those who have received one shot and those fully immunized. Ramping up the second dose is “an important priority,” V K Paul, the head of the country’s COVID-19 taskforce, said at a briefing last week. 4:50 a.m.: Toronto expects the COVID-19 vaccine to be approved and offered to children aged 5 to 11 within weeks, says public health chief Dr. Eileen de Villa.De Villa told reporters Wednesday her department is launching a multi-pronged campaign to get as many kids immunized as quickly as possible, including an online “tool kit” with vaccine information for parents, guardians and caregivers.The kit includes information about the benefits and risks of children getting the jab, she said, adding that in general the vaccine’s protection for kids and adults around them against COVID-19 far outweigh any risk of side-effects.Read more from the Star’s David Rider.4:45 a.m.: Saskatchewan’s chief medical officer of health broke into tears in the midst of a COVID-19 modelling presentation over teleconference Wednesday.Dr. Saqib Shahab teared up while reflecting on the province’s overloaded hospitals and intensive care units.“It’s distressing to see what is happening in our ICUs an

Today’s coronavirus news: India hits 1 billion vaccine doses; Canada Recovery Benefit is set to expire

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Thursday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

5:45 a.m.: Over a month into the school year, the province’s largest school boards are reporting staff vaccination rates ranging from a high of 94.8 per cent to a low of 76 per cent.

But a Star analysis of 31 major boards has found inconsistencies in the way they report and present this information that make it difficult to compare rates between boards, and in most cases impossible for parents to know the rate of vaccination of teachers at their boards.

Despite provincial direction that public school board employees disclose their vaccination status, the Star found that over 15,000 staff have not done so, and, because boards don’t break down the data by job category, it’s not clear what these people do.

Read more from the Star’s Kenyon Wallace and May Warren.

5:30 a.m.: Russia on Thursday registered the highest daily numbers of new coronavirus infections and deaths since the start of the pandemic as the authorities hoped to slow the spread by introducing a nonworking week.

The government coronavirus task force reported 36,339 new confirmed infections and 1,036 deaths in the past 24 hours that brought Russia’s death toll to 227,389 — by far the highest in Europe.

Russia’s daily infections have been surging for weeks and coronavirus mortality numbers topped 1,000 for the first time over the weekend amid low vaccination rates, lax public attitudes toward taking precautions and the government’s reluctance to tighten restrictions. Only about 45 million Russians — roughly a third of its nearly 146 million people — are fully vaccinated.

President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday responded to rising contagion and deaths by ordering Russians to stay off work for a period starting Oct. 30 and extending through the following week, when four of seven days are already non-working, including a two-day state holiday. In some regions where the situation is the most threatening, he said the nonworking period could start as early as Saturday and be extended past Nov. 7.

5:15 a.m.: The Canada Recovery Benefit is on the way out, the Star learned late Wednesday.

Two sources told the Star that the benefit, which replaced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) last year, will be gone sooner rather than later. But some support will still be available for those who are not able to go to work temporarily because of strict lockdowns.

The fate of the federal government’s soon-to-expire pandemic support measures could be revealed as early as Thursday.

Supports for struggling businesses will remain in some form but be streamlined and made far more stringent in terms of applicants demonstrating losses.

Read more from the Star’s Raisi Patel.

5 a.m.: India has administered 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine, officials said Thursday, passing a milestone for the South Asian country where the delta variant fueled its first crushing surge earlier this year.

About 75% of India’s total eligible adult population have received at least one dose, while around 30% are fully immunized. The country of nearly 1.4 billion people is the second to exceed a billion cumulative doses after the most populous country China did so in June.

Coronavirus cases have fallen sharply in India since the devastating months at the start of the year when the highly transmissible delta variant, first detected in the country a year ago, was infecting hundreds of thousands daily, sending COVID-19 patients into overwhelmed hospitals and filling cremation grounds.

Officials have bolstered the vaccination campaign in recent months, which experts say have helped control the outbreak since. The country began its drive in January.

Still, there remains a worrying gap between those who have received one shot and those fully immunized. Ramping up the second dose is “an important priority,” V K Paul, the head of the country’s COVID-19 taskforce, said at a briefing last week.

4:50 a.m.: Toronto expects the COVID-19 vaccine to be approved and offered to children aged 5 to 11 within weeks, says public health chief Dr. Eileen de Villa.

De Villa told reporters Wednesday her department is launching a multi-pronged campaign to get as many kids immunized as quickly as possible, including an online “tool kit” with vaccine information for parents, guardians and caregivers.

The kit includes information about the benefits and risks of children getting the jab, she said, adding that in general the vaccine’s protection for kids and adults around them against COVID-19 far outweigh any risk of side-effects.

Read more from the Star’s David Rider.

4:45 a.m.: Saskatchewan’s chief medical officer of health broke into tears in the midst of a COVID-19 modelling presentation over teleconference Wednesday.

Dr. Saqib Shahab teared up while reflecting on the province’s overloaded hospitals and intensive care units.

“It’s distressing to see what is happening in our ICUs and hospitals and I’m sorry,” he said in a press conference over the phone. “It’s a very challenging time.”

Read the full story from the Star’s Kevin Jiang.

4:30 a.m.: Belgium's government warned Thursday that the country could well be on the cusp of another major surge in COVID-19 cases despite its high vaccination rate.

Though the government recently relaxed the mandatory use of facemasks, it is again starting to encourage the population to use them to counter a rise in cases reminiscent of the first three surges of the past one and a half years.

“We are clearly in a fourth wave,” Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke told the VRT network. “We will see a major increase in infections and, unfortunately, hospital admissions.”

The government has this month loosened some restrictions, including allowing for more indoor events and dropping requirements for customers to wear masks in bars.

4:20 a.m.: Geoff Waszek was wary of another pandemic-related lockdown this fall just in time for Halloween, so the owner of Candy's Costume Shop in Toronto decided to take a cautious approach to ordering this year.

But with COVID-19 cases having stabilized, Waszek was left scrambling to stock his shelves in time.

"We had to do a lot of scrounging this year, going through companies and finding what’s available," he said.

Waszek is one of many Halloween store owners who say supply chain issues, shuttered suppliers and uncertainty have hampered their recovery from a dismal 2020.

In the end, Candy's Costume Shop was able to stock about 90 per cent of its shelves, but without certain items. Licensed products like superhero and movie costumes were nearly impossible to find, so his shop has more generic items like capes and masks this year.

U.S.-based HalloweenCostumes.com, which ships directly to Canadian consumers, said many retailers are struggling as they see a roughly 50 per cent increase in year-over-year demand compared with last year, when many didn't celebrate Halloween. Spokeswoman Ashley Theis said much of the stock the company ordered won't arrive until after Halloween.

Source : Toronto Star More   

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