Local boards respond to schools remaining closed through June 2020

The playground equipment at Trudell Public School remains draped in tape on Tuesday, May 19, 2020, the same day the provincial government announced schools would not reopen for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Jemma Dooreleyers.

On Tuesday, May 19, 2020, the provincial government announced that schools in the province will remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.

Premier Doug Ford and Minister Stephen Leccee, Minister of Education, made the announcement at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, and cited the safety of children as the primary reason the schools will remain closed.

“Nothing is more important than protecting our kids in this province, bar none over anything,” said Premier Ford. “Today’s announcement gives parents certainty, knowing that their children can continue to learn safely at home and that we have a plan for child care as we work to gradually reopen more of our economy, when it is safe to do so.”

Ford and Leccee noted that all students who were on track to graduate from secondary school before the initial school closure order was made in March will be able to graduate. They additionally outlined that all students will receive report cards, and that parents and caregivers can expect the provincial government to announce a plan for an enhanced province-wide virtual learning program for the 2020-2021 school year later this summer.

Here in Kingston, local school boards were quick to respond to the announcement.

“We acknowledge that this news is disheartening for many, but the Ontario government has made this decision to protect the health and safety of all students and staff during the COVID-19 outbreak. This decision was made in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, health experts on the COVID-19 Command Table, and medical experts at the Hospital for Sick Children,” David Desantis, Director of Education for the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board said in a letter to parents and guardians on Tuesday, May 19, 2020. “We understand that these extended closures are difficult for families within our Catholic school community; however, we remain committed to supporting our students and families to the best of our ability. Educators and school staff will continue to reach out to support students during at-home learning.”

Debra Rantz, Director of Education for the Limestone District School Board, echoed Desantis in her letter to parents and guardians.

“This is disappointing news, and we know it is not what many of you might have hoped for, but it is based on the advice of provincial and local public health officials who continue to monitor each stage of the reopening plan to assess the evolution of the COVID-19 outbreak,” Rantz said. “We will support all decisions that help ensure the ongoing safety and well-being of our students and staff. It is important to note that school is not cancelled – in-school teaching and learning is suspended. Learning opportunities will continue within our emergency remote learning plan.”

Rantz provided the following list of things the Limestone District School Board knows for sure:

  • The board will continue to prioritize the physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being of our students and staff.
  • The board will continue to provide emergency remote learning to our students for the remainder of the school year. We thank families and students for participating in our remote learning survey. We are eager to review the feedback and how we might work together to strengthen our actions going forward.
  • Students will receive final report cards in June. All marks will be based on students’ learning prior to the school closures on March 13. Marks cannot go down, only up.
  • Grade 12 students scheduled to graduate will do so as planned. Graduation ceremonies that normally take place in June are cancelled and plans are under way to determine how we will recognize this significant milestone for our senior students when it is safe to do so.
  • Grade 8 graduation ceremonies are also cancelled. Schools are working on ways to celebrate students in a virtual format.
  • Limestone’s existing summer session registration is now open. We await more detail on the province’s new, expanded Summer Learning Program, and what this might mean for Limestone students.
  • Child-care centres located in our schools will also remain closed. The gradual reopening of child care is subject to the continuing progress in trends of key public health indicators.
  •  Schools will remain closed, but we will work with local public health officials to determine how students can safely return to school to retrieve any belongings that were left behind in March.
  • The Province will announce plans for the 2020-2021 school year before the end of the current school year.

“We must remember that these changes to our school communities are not forever. They are for now. Everyone is affected by this pandemic in some way, and we will continue to work together to support our students, families, and staff as best we can,” Rantz concluded.

Both school boards indicated that more information is expected to be made available in the coming weeks, including the summer learning plan and further plans for the 2020-2021 school year

“The health and safety of our students, staff and greater community remain a priority for ALCDSB. Please continue to follow the advice of our public health officials and stay well,” said Desantis.

For more information from the Limestone District School Board, click here.

For more information from the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board, click here.

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