Should Ontario schools consider staying open for the summer? One expert says yes
OTTAWA -- With two straight school years of massive disruptions for Ontario's two million students, one expert believes all options should be on the table to help students recover from the inevitable education gaps that the pandemic has presented them.
And that includes changing summer vacation.
Prachi Srivastava, an associate professor in education at Western University in London, Ont. tells News Talk 580 CFRA the latest studies show an average learning loss of about three months for kids and larger for others during the pandemic, while students that come from more vulnerable backgrounds are also facing much greater losses.
"We are seeing mental health issues and learning loss across the board, so we need to be cognizant of the fact that the learning loss issue is real and the mental health issues that children are facing are also real," Srivastava said on Wednesday.
She said the learning loss and disruption is something the Ontario government and other governments in the future will need to address urgently, but in the short term, everything, including changing the school year calendar for the next couple of years should be on the table.
"I'm not saying we don't need breaks, of course, we need breaks, the question is should we restructure our calendar so those breaks are divided up differently? Rather than having a long summer, should we look at having a week off at a time....should we consider lengthening the school day?" said Srivastava.
"That's not a question I have an answer but these are the questions that needs to be discussed," Srivastava said, adding the province should convene a task force looking at the education system as a whole and its recovery.
When compared to the rest of the country, Srivastava said Ontario students have had the "longest and most volatile education disruption" in the entire country and that the government has failed in implementing measures to keep its promise of schools being, "the last to close and the first to open."
She pointed out schools were not even mentioned in the province's re-opening plan presented to the public last week.
"I'm not saying the situation in other provinces is perfect," she said, but added that even in neighbouring Quebec, schools weren't as hard hit by closures as in Ontario during the third wave.
Srivastava said she's frustrated that there hasn't been more of a focus at this point on how the education system will recover, particularly with the resources available in a G7 country.
"Those students who started in 2019 have only ever known disrupted education. I don't really understand how we are at the point that we are now going to our third potential year of Education disruption and we are having a conversation about whether or not children need to have a boosted resources."