Local school boards continue to support at-home learning after the province announced that all publicly funded schools will remain closed until at least May 31 to keep students and staff safe from COVID-19
Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce said on the weekend that the decision was based on advice from medical experts. He said the school closing could be further extended. The previous target date for reopening schools was May 4.
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Elementary and secondary students moved to learning online over the past month.
Rick Petrella, chair of the Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board, said the extension was expected.
“Our board was actively planning for this announcement, and the continuation of the learning plan is well underway,” he said.
Petrella said all students are participating in instruction in “one form or another.”
The ministry says it has distributed 20,000 iPads to students whose families don’t have the means to access online learning.
Kimberly Newhouse, manager of communications for the Grand Erie District School Board, said the board is distributing as many computers as it can to families, with priority on secondary students who are graduating this year.
Teachers provided printed packages of material to students who don’t have devices or Internet at home.
Petrella said special education resources and equipment have been sent to students, along with printed material for those who need it.
“There have been a few logistical issues that we have had to overcome and we know that nothing is perfect, but the trustees are incredibly proud of how quickly and effectively our district has worked, together with families, to ensure the 2019-20 school year continues,” he said.
He said the likelihood is high for the cancellation of year-end trips and other school events.
The Grand Erie board decided earlier to cancel all extracurricular activities, events and trips for the remainder of the school year. That includes all school trips, spring sporting events, tournaments and meets, graduations, proms, dances, and athletic banquets.
Petrella said schools will be keeping parents updated on the process of refunds and the possibility of re-scheduling events.
“With the information that has been provided to Ontario school boards, we still do not have all those answers,” said Petrella.
“What we do know, and to be clear, if your child was on track to graduate, he/she will be graduating, and there will be no impediment to post-secondary education as a result of the closing of our schools. If your child was on track to progress to the next elementary grade level, they will progress.”
Newhouse said teachers continue to assess student learning as the school year moves forward.
“Final report cards will be issued in June, reflecting evaluation completed up to March break, with room for improvement based on achievement during the COVID-19 closure period.”