Ontario Premier Doug Ford answers questions at the daily briefing at Queen's Park in Toronto on Tuesday March 31, 2020. (The Canadian Press/Frank Gunn)

Ontario schools move online as school closures are extended 

Ontario schools won’t be open for students until at least May 4 to fight the spread of COVID-19, Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford announced in a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.

“The decision to extend school closures was not made lightly,” Ford said in a press release. “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.”

Ontario originally closed publicly funded schools on March 14, and they were originally scheduled to reopen on April 6. The closures may be extended if necessary based on public health advice.

Ontario’s Education Minister Stephen Lecce also announced an initiative to have a teacher led program where students will be graded, receive report cards, and will complete credits in order to graduate. 

According to the Ontario government, the second phase of Learn at Home will include reconnecting students with teachers and mental health staff. It will also establish teacher-led learning by grade groupings, each with their own set of subjects and expectations. 

“We will do whatever it takes to keep students safe from COVID-19 – which is why we have extended the school closure period and why we have unveiled a teacher-led program that keeps students learning while at home,” Lecce said. 

Some Ontario based school boards had already planned for the extension of school closures. 

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB), and Peel District School Board (PDSB), said that they anticipated that the school closures would last longer and planned to have teacher-led online classes, according to press releases from the school boards yesterday. 

Both school boards are looking to have teacher-led learning up and running on April 6, 2020. 

The TDSB said that it is working hard to make sure everyone has access to devices and the internet that will allow access to learning opportunities. They added that they do not want to leave anyone behind when learning begins again on April 6. 

“COVID-19 has caused all of us great challenge,” the Director of Education of TDSB, John Malloy, said in a video message. “It has changed the way we do just about everything for the next while and that challenge includes how we provide learning opportunities for our students.”

The PDSB said that they are working on a plan and will share its details with students and parents by the end of the week. 

The plan will include information on how students from kindergarten all the way to grade 12 will be instructed, how the school board will support students with special needs and how they will ensure that everyone has access to the 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,” Peter Joshua, the director of education at the PDSB said. 

With files from CBC News

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