Students won’t return to class until May

TORONTO – Schools will be closed for much longer than the initial two week closure after March Break that was announced March 12th.

“Our medical experts are telling us the next two weeks are absolutely critical,” said Premier Doug Ford. “Publicly-funded schools will be closed until at least May 1st for teachers, May 4th for students.”

The premier said that if the medical experts say that the schools should be closed longer, the closures will be extended.

“I know these extended closures will make things difficult for families,” Ford said. “Nothing is more important than the safety of our students.”

Private schools and daycare centres in the province will also remain closed during this period, except for designated daycare centres that provide childcare to first responders and frontline health care workers dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario.

“We will do whatever it takes to keep students and staff safe,” said Education Minister Stephen Lecce. “We’re taking the next steps launching the second phase of learning at home.”

The minister said that there would be expectations parents could count on for students learning from home during the next month.

“[The] aim is to provide all of them some stability amid this difficulty,” Lecce said.

The province launched the first phase of its ‘Learn at Home’ program, with online resources for Kindergarten to Grade 12 students before the end of March Break. “Nothing about this situation is ideal,” Lecce said.

Phase 2 of ‘Learn at Home’ will re-establish teacher-led learning in different grade groupings, with specific focuses in each grouping. All school work provided will be graded and count towards their final report cards, which Lecce said there will be for the 2019-20 school year.

Kindergarten to Grade 3 students will have five hours of work per student per week, with a focus on literacy and math;

Grades 4-6 students will receive five hours of work per student per week focusing on literacy, math, science, and social studies;

Grade 7-8 students will get 10 hours of work per week, covering literacy, math, science, and social studies;

Grade 9-12 students will get three hours per week per course they are currently enrolled in at secondary school, with a plan for students to achieve the credits they need, and work towards graduation.

“We will do whatever it takes to ensure you graduate,” Lecce said to Grade 11 and 12 students. “We have your back and want you to succeed.”

To roll out Phase 2 of ‘Learn at Home’, the minister said that school boards will be using digital resources and even older methods where there is a technology gap such as phone and mail for work.

Lecce said that laptops and other devices will be distributed to students as needed, while observing public health safe distancing. No details on how, or when, technology issues would be ironed out was provided. The province is also working with service providers to address specific needs where internet may not be available.

“If we can salvage part of the school year for in school instruction, then we will,” Lecce said. “We will overcome this challenge, and do so together.”

Parents in the Upper Canada District School Board have been invited to respond to a technology survey to determine any specific needs. The link to that survey is available here.

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