Ontario extending school closures until at least May

Mar 31 2020, 10:23 am

Premier Doug Ford announced that publicly funded schools will be closed until at least May due to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 outbreak.

Both schools and child care centres will remain closed, and the extension is being made on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Today’s announcement was made by Ford, Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, Ross Romano, Minister of Colleges and Universities and Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.

Public schools will remain closed to teachers until Friday, May 1, 2020, and to students until Monday, May 4, 2020.

The province said as these dates come closer, this decision will be re-evaluated based on public health advice.

“The decision to extend school closures was not made lightly. We know from the medical experts that the next two weeks will be critical in the fight against COVID-19 and that’s why we’re taking further action to keep our kids safe and healthy by having them stay home,” said Ford.

“At the same time, we cannot put the school year in jeopardy. That’s why we’re providing additional tools for at-home learning and ensuring students from kindergarten to Grade 12 to postsecondary education can finish their academic year and get the credits they need to graduate.”

Lecce also announced the second phase of the province’s newly launched education program called Learn at Home.

The program will provide parents and families with educational material in English and French and will offer curriculums for Grade K to 12 with lessons for basics like reading, writing, math, and science skills. There will also be certified tutors available through TVO.

The second phase of Learn at Home will reconnect students with teachers and other school staff, including mental health workers. It will also leverage digital resources and identify alternative forms of teacher-student connectivity by phone and mail.

Report cards will also be required for all students and prioritize and support students who intend to graduate this school year.

There is also awareness to provide laptops and other devices from schools as needed, while observing public health direction.

Lecce also said that there will be formal coronavirus working groups with education sector unions to work together, share ideas, and find solutions in the support of students.

“By providing clarity for parents, enhancing support for students and enabling the teacher-student relationship, we are ensuring our children continue to safely learn – providing some sense of stability and hope for them amid this difficulty,” Lecce said.

The province is also focused on assisting students in post-secondary colleges and universities.

Ross Romano, Minister of Colleges and Universities, announced that there will be a six-month deferral for all student loans for all individuals who have recently graduated or are about to graduate.

As well as, $25 million will be given directly to 45 post-secondary colleges and universities and Indigenous teaching facilities. Romano said these education institutions can use the money “as they see fit.”

So far, The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) is in the process of developing online coursework for almost 250,000 students as schools across Ontario remain closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 25, the TDSB’s Director of Education John Malloy said the Ministry of Education asked all school boards to use the next two weeks to develop plans to establish the delivery of curriculum for the extended closer of schools.

The Peel District School Board is also creating an online framework for e-learning as the closures continue. The program is called A Community of Care: Peel District School Board’s Learning and Support Plan, which will include information on how we will deliver instruction in kindergarten to grade 12, as well as through Adult & Continuing Education programming; supports for students with Special Education needs and English Language Learners; ways to ensure equity of access to devices and Wi-Fi; mental health and community supports and online learning resources.

“We are working to ensure that our use of online learning environments will not widen the divide between privileged and underserved students, and that alternate learning strategies will be available,” said Director of Education Peter Joshua.

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