Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that 21,000 iPads, equipped with free online access, have been deployed to families most in need, as students stay home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Friday, the premier said that the Ontario school boards worked in partnership with tech leaders like Apple and Rogers to deliver the iPads to students, who already face financial barriers, to get them improved educational support.
Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, said that Apple has provided the iPads for discounted prices to the province and Rogers will offer free wireless data to vulnerable families.
“Families can have peace of mind knowing their children will have access to the tools needed during this difficult period,” Lecce said.
“We know the pressures being faced by parents, educators, and especially children.”
Apple is providing videos, apps and books to help teachers build engaging lessons for students at home, along with creative activities that kids and families can do with the built-in features of iPad.
Apple is also offering teachers free one-to-one virtual coaching by Apple Professional Learning Specialists.
In addition to providing free wireless data, Rogers is also working with Ontario school boards to provide high-speed, low-cost internet to subsidized tenants and members of housing partners across Ontario.
“At Apple, we believe education is the great equalizer and we are proud that the Ministry of Ontario and school boards have mobilized to deploy iPad as part of the Learn at Home program to enable equitable access to remote learning for all students,” the company statement said.
The province has also accelerated the delivery of broadband internet access, currently on track to be in every high school in Ontario by September 2020 and elementary school by September 2021.
The Minister of Education noted that two million students in Ontario had to pivot to online learning in March to adapt to the changes being made from the pandemic.
On March 20, the province launched the Learn at Home program offering curriculums for Grade K to 12 for basics like reading, writing, math, and science skills. There will also be certified tutors available through TVO.
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In order to further help families affected, the provincial government is expanding the list of essential workers eligible to receive emergency child care.
An emergency order was issued on Thursday night, which will offer support to those providing a variety of critical services including people who assist vulnerable communities, emergency response and law enforcement sector staff, more health and safety workers, and certain federal employees.
“Our frontline workers have made so many sacrifices and put the needs of the community ahead of themselves,” Ford said.
“These heroes work day-in and day-out to ensure everyone else can stay home and stay safe and healthy. The least we can do is ensure the safety of their children during these unprecedented times.”
On March 20, 2020, the government issued an emergency order directing certain child care centres to reopen with fewer children to allow for physical distancing. This decision was made to support health care and other frontline workers responding to the outbreak.
But now, the additional frontline workers who can access emergency childcare services include:
- Staff working in developmental services, victim services, violence against women services, anti-human trafficking services and child welfare services (children’s aid societies) and in children’s residential settings;
- Staff working in shelters;
- Power workers;
- Pharmaceutical and medical supplies and device manufacturing workers;
- Non-municipal water and waste-water employees;
- Federally employed staff including Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers and Canada Post employees.
The Ontario Ministry of Education is working with Consolidated Municipal Service Managers (CMSM) and District Social Services Administration Boards (DSSAB) in their role as service system managers for early years and child care, as well as First Nations, to implement emergency child care centres in communities across the province.
Ontario will continue to monitor local needs to ensure frontline staff can continue to work and will communicate more details as the situation evolves.
Ontario schools initially were set to open on May 4, but that deadline has now been extended to an indefinite date.