Youngest students to get special attention in September


Blake Ellis/Local Journalism Initiative

When kids in Lambton-Kent go back to school in a couple of weeks, the littlest students will be getting some special attention.

Education Minister Stephen Leece released what it dubbed ‘The Plan to Catch Up’ – what the government plans for schools across the province. It includes more tutoring and more mental health supports.

One of the strategies is to centre on students on the Kindergarten to Grade 2 level in the Lambton Kent District School Board. “None of these students have experienced a typical school year ever,” said Ben Hazzard, superintendent of education for early years and elementary.

The board began offering tutoring in April and have extended into the summer months for reading at the Kindergarten to Grade 2 level. Currently there are 800 students involved in the reading tutoring program daily.

There is summer tutoring in urban areas, while online learning can be accessed across the rural areas. Offering tutoring to the younger students in the school system can be a challenge, given their low attention span, says Hazzard. The reading tutoring has been tailored to the needs of the students. Each day these students get 20 minutes of online reading with a one-on-one tutoring.

Hazzard says the children need even more help with math particularly for students in Grade 8 who will be heading to high school this year.

“We know there is anxiety around transitioning back to the classroom,” said Hazzard. So the board is trying to make it easier by holding transition days in August. Hazzard says a student at the elementary school will get a tour of the classroom and the playground, while being introduced to teachers, resource teachers and other staff. They’ll also get a book to take home.

That transition day will look much different for older elementary school students and teens at the high school level. Supports from social workers are also available to students.

There are 15 intervention and assessment teachers to determine whether students were at the level they needed to be and what supports were needed to bring them up to speed.

Hazzard called the new school year challenging and complex after going through two years of disruption brought on by the pandemic. Hazzard says principals across the system would be glad to hear from parents who are anxious about how the new school year will unfold to help calm some of the concerns.

Leece, in his remarks to the media Monday, said the government’s Plan to Catch UP includes making sure kids are back in the classroom in September getting a full experience – including extracurriculars like clubs, sports and field trips. Leece says the plan also includes preparing students for the jobs of tomorrow, providing more money to build schools and improving mental health supports.

The Local Journalism Initiative supports the creation of original civic journalism that covers the diverse needs of underserved communities across Canada.