Local schools transition to online learning
Reeti Meenakshi Rohilla - Staff Writer
As a result of an increasing rate of COVID-19 cases, all Ontario elementary and secondary schools have indefinitely moved to teacher-led remote learning as of April 19.
Given Premier Doug Ford’s announcement on April 12, and the week of April 12-16 being Spring Break, The Keewatin-Patricia District School Board (KPDSB), and The Northwest Catholic District School Board shared early last week that they would start their remote learning on April 20, instead of April 19. The school boards shared that this additional day would allow staff to prepare for the shift to remote learning and arrange device distribution where needed.
The KPDSB shared that as per the Ontario Government’s Operational Guidance: COVID-19 Management in Schools, school boards are required to support a transition to remote learning within 24 hours of a school closure. Ontario’s website states that remote learning will be provided in alignment with The Ministry of Education’s Policy/Program Memorandum (PPM) No.164: Requirements for Remote Learning, which provides direction to school boards on remote learning requirements, including implementation and reporting.
“This PPM provides the standards for instruction of synchronous learning so that parents and students know what to expect and so that there is a consistent approach to ensure students are fully engaged in their learning. For students in Grades 1 – 8, 75% of the instructional day must be synchronous learning, while in Grades 9 - 12, 80% of the course is delivered synchronously. Synchronous learning is part of the 300-minute instructional day during which teachers remain available to students,” shared KPDSB.
An Ontario news release mentions that “increasing rates of community spread pose a threat to the health and safety of school communities.” It adds that data will be assessed on an ongoing basis and health officials will be consulted to determine when it will be safe to resume in-person learning.
“We are seeing a rapidly deteriorating situation with a record number of COVID cases and hospital admissions threatening to overwhelm our health care system,” said Premier Doug Ford. “As I have always said we will do whatever it takes to ensure everyone stays safe. By keeping kids home longer after spring break we will limit community transmission, take pressure off our hospitals and allow more time to rollout our COVID-19 vaccine plan.”
KPDSB encourages families in need of mental health supports and services for their children, to email them at [email protected], or reach out to FIREFLY at [email protected] or call 1-833-696-5437. NAN HOPE, Nishnawbe Aski Mental Health and Addictions Support Access Program is also available 24/7, for any Indigenous families or youth from any of the 49 NAN First Nations. The service can be accessed by calling 1-844-NAN-HOPE. KPDSB further added that students and families can reach out to Kids Help Phone, a free, province-wide, 24/7 counseling and referral services, by calling 1-800-668-6868, or texting CONNECT to 686868. School Mental Health Ontario also has a number of great resources for students, parents and families on their website at www.smho-smso.ca.
The province added that child care for non-school aged children will remain open, before and after school programs will be closed and free emergency child care for the school-aged children of eligible health care and frontline workers will be provided.
“This was not a decision we made lightly, as we know how critical schools are to Ontario students. Our priority has always been to keep schools open, however sharply rising community transmission can put our schools and Ontario families at risk,” said Minister of Health, Stephen Lecce. “While Ontario’s plan has kept schools safe, as confirmed by the Chief Medical Officer of Health, we are taking decisive and preventative action today to ensure students can safely return to learning in our schools.”