Ontario students turn to e-learning after March Break
OTTAWA -- Monday should have been the first day of classes after March Break for elementary and high school students in Ontario.
But with the COVID-19 pandemic keeping schools closed, the Ford government is going online to help keep students learning.
On Friday, Ontario launched a new "Learn at Home" portal for students in both elementary and secondary schools. The portal includes links to resources from TVO for students at the elementary level, and access to a larger online tool for high school students.
In an open letter to parents, sent Sunday evening, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the Province is working to ensure students still get their credits this semester, despite schools being closed. He also said the possibility of schools remaining closed after April 6 is something he is preparing for.
"We know for those with children in a graduating year, there may be uncertainty about whether these students will be able to graduate," Lecce said. "We want to make this clear: no graduating student will have their ability to graduate by the two-week closure and the COVID-19 developments."
EQAO testing has been cancelled for this school year, Lecce said, and he's approved a change to ensure completion of the Secondary School Literacy Test is not a barrier to students on track to graduate.
"We are also working with the Ministry of Colleges and Universities and the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development to ensure students can apply to post-secondary education (including apprenticeship, college and university), regardless of the situation this semester," Lecce said.
Local Progressive Conservative MPP and Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Sport Lisa MacLeod said she'd be educating her daughter using the online tools provided by the Ontario government.
Lecce also addressed mental health in his open letter.
"Although this virus has been characterized and spoken about largely in terms of physical impacts, I believe we need to acknowledge and respond to the sense of fear and concern that your children may be feeling, especially our younger learners," he said. "There are many resources available to you and your children, notably Kids Help Phone, which is Canada's only 24/7 national support service."
Kids Help Phone can be reached by calling 1-800-668-6868, online at www.kidshelpphone.ca or by texting CONNECT to 686868.
Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts, Lecce said parents should expect high volume for some of the online learning programs, but the government has the capacity to expand it.
"If this goes longer, we're going to make sure we scale it up, build it up, and expand upon it significantly."
Lecce wouldn't say if the school closures in Ontario will be extended, but told parents to be ready for it.
"I don't have an update from [Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams] and he will provide it to me, I assume, over the coming days, but I want to be frank: we have to prepare for an extension," Lecce said.
Local School Boards
The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board says it understands not all students have access to a computer or wifi.
"We are working with the Ministry to consider strategies which could make technology available to students where needed," said Director of Education and Secretary of the Board Camille Williams-Taylor. "This is a very fluid situation and we appreciate your patience and support as we work through these issues."
The Ottawa Catholic School Board also directed parents to the Ontario government's online learning portal in their most recent update, dated Friday.
A spokesperson for the Ottawa Catholic School Board said more updates are expected Monday, after a conference call with principals.
The Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est said on its website Friday, it has launched its own online portal for students to aid in the continuing education from home. The Board also directed parents to the Ontario government's Learn at Home page.
The Conseil des écoles publiques de l"Est de l'Ontario is also directing parents to Ontario's e-learning portal.