(Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, announces extension to school closures due to COVID-19 pandemic on March 31, 2020. Photo: Ontario Legislature)
On Tuesday, on the advice of the Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, the Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, announced that school closures will be extended to at least May due to COVID-19 and its rapid progress. Day care centres and private schools are also included in this closure.
In lieu of the school closures and to ensure continuity of learning, the second phase of Learn at Home is being introduced. Learn at Home will create opportunities for teachers and educators to connect with students and has been created in collaboration with education partners.
“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 Premier 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 post-secondary education can finish their academic year and get the credits they need to graduate.”
Public schools will remain closed to teachers until Friday, May 1, 2020, and to students until Monday, May 4, 2020. The decision to extend the closures will be re-evaluated as the new dates approach based on public health advice and may be extended again. Private schools, licensed child care centres and EarlyON programs will also remain closed until April 13, according to the Declaration of Emergency, which only allows closures to be extended for one 14-day period at a time.
The provincial government previously indicated that no student will have their graduation compromised because of COVID-19 and the Ministry of Education is working closely with the Minister of Colleges and Universities to ensure there are no barriers for students to access post-secondary education.
“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,” said Minister Lecce. “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.”
The second phase of Learn at Home features a new set of expectations for the education community, including:
- Reconnecting students with teachers and other school staff, including mental health workers;
- Re-establishing teacher-led learning by grade groupings as follows:
- Kindergarten-Grade 3: five hours of work per student/week (focus on literacy and math)
- Grades 4-6: five hours of work per student/week (focus on literacy, math, science and social studies)
- Grades 7-8: 10 hours of work per student/week (focus on math, literacy, science and social studies)
- Grades 9-12: three hours of work per course per week for semestered students; 1.5 hours of work per course per week for non-semestered students (focus on achieving credits/completion/graduation)
- Leveraging digital resources and identifying alternative forms of teacher-student connectivity, such as phone and mail;
- Developing a program of training for educators to support them in virtual learning delivery;
- Requiring final report cards for all students;
- Prioritizing and supporting students on track to graduate;
- Distributing laptops and/or devices from schools as needed, while observing public health direction;
- Maintaining a responsive posture for health care and community partner requests; and
- Establishing formal COVID-19 working groups with education sector unions to work together, share ideas and to find solutions in the support of students.
English and French-language materials will be added continually to Learn at Home on a regular basis to provide new and compelling content throughout this period.
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