Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce has announced that all publicly-funded schools in the province will remain closed until at least May 31, 2020, as part of an effort to keep students, staff and families safe from COVID-19.
In a press release, the Ontario government explained that the extension was based on expert advice from the Chief Medical Officer of Health and health officials on the COVID-19 Command Table and is part of the government’s ongoing effort to stop the spread of the virus. The advice was to extend school closures for an additional period of time to permit updated modelling and data to inform next steps.
“We will do whatever it takes to keep our students safe,” said Minister Lecce. “The government is taking a careful approach which provides our medical experts the time to review the modelling and make the best decision for the safety of our students and the future of learning.”
The ministry says it continues to monitor the evolving situation and if necessary, the closure may be extended further to protect the health and safety of Ontario’s school communities. At the same time, the Ontario government says it is taking steps to ensure learning can continue. In March the province unveiled its Learn at Home portal, which offers students online math and literacy resources in both English and French.
In its press release, the government says it has also partnered with Rogers Communications and Apple to help meet the educational needs of students and families during the COVID-19 outbreak, with iPads being purchased and distributed by Ontario school boards, pre-equipped with free Rogers LTE wireless data. However, several Ontario school boards, including the Algonquin & Lakeshore Catholic District School Board, have noted that they have not received any iPads since the COVID-19 pandemic began, nor are they expecting to receive any. “Last week, Minister Lecce announced Ontario partnerships with Apple and Rogers to make home learning more accessible – unfortunately, ALCDSB is unable to participate in this additional initiative,” said the ALCDSB in a release on April 23, 2020.
Minister Lecce says that should schools be permitted to reopen, school employees will have access as of May 29, 2020. The Ministry of Education will then move forward to replace the remainder of Professional Activity (PA) days and examination days with instructional time, as well as the introduction of an expanded summer learning program that will focus on credit recovery, supports for vulnerable students, and course upgrading.
Private schools, First Nation schools, licensed child care centres and EarlyON programs will remain closed until at least May 6, 2020, with certain exceptions for licenced care, under an emergency order made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, which only allows closures to be extended for 14 days at a time.