Ontario schools to remain closed until May 4

Province extends school closures to May 4 for students, May 1 for teachers to combat COVID-19

School is out until May 4. Probably no surprise to anyone, the Ford government has announced schools and child care centres will remain closed to protect the health of students and staff as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve. The government said it was acting on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

” The decision to extend school closures was not made lightly. We know from the medical experts that the next two weeks will be critical in the fight against COVID-19 and that’s why we’re taking further action to keep our kids safe and healthy by having them stay home,” said Premier Ford. “At the same time, we cannot put the school year in jeopardy. That’s why we’re providing additional tools for at-home learning and ensuring students from kindergarten to Grade 12 to postsecondary education can finish their academic year and get the credits they need to graduate.” 

Students will have access to learning tools at their finger tips as the government is launching the second phase of Learn at Home, which was developed in conjunction with education partners. The government said it is establishing clarity for parents, enhancing education supports, and creating opportunities for teachers and educators to connect with students.

Teachers will not have access to schools until May 1, and students are to return May 4. Since the pandemic is an evolving situation, the decision to reopen schools will be re-evaluated as the dates come closer based on public health advice.

Licensed child care centres, private schools and EarlyON programs will remain closed until April 13, as the Declaration of Emergency only allows closures to be extended for one 14-day period at a time. Select centres designated to support frontline and health care workers and first responders will remain open.

The province also reassured students that their graduation will not be compromised and various ministries were working together to ensure no barriers are placed to accessing postsecondary education.

“We will do whatever it takes to keep students safe from COVID-19 – which is why we have extended the school closure period and why we have unveiled a teacher-led program that keeps students learning while at home,” said Education Minister Stephen Lecce. “By providing clarity for parents, enhancing support for students and enabling the teacher-student relationship, we are ensuring our children continue to safely learn – providing some sense of stability and hope for them amid this difficulty.” 

The Simcoe County District School Board has been developing plans in case school closure were extended. Board chair Jodi Lloyd said teachers were using this week to reach out to families to find out what students have and what they need, in particular in the area of technology. Lloyd said in places where there was no internet access, delivery of work to students was an option being considered.

The second phase of Learn at Home features a new set of expectations for the education community, including:

  • Reconnecting students with teachers and other school staff, including mental health workers;
  • Re-establishing teacher-led learning by grade groupings as follows:
    • Kindergarten-Grade 3: five hours of work per student/week (focus on literacy and math)
    • Grades 4-6: five hours of work per student/week (focus on literacy, math, science and social studies)
    • Grades 7-8: 10 hours of work per student/week (focus on math, literacy, science and social studies)
    • Grades 9-12: three hours of work per course per week for semestered students; 1.5 hours of work per course per week for non-semestered students (focus on achieving credits/completion/graduation)
  • Leveraging digital resources and identifying alternative forms of teacher-student connectivity, such as phone and mail;
  • Developing a program of training for educators to support them in virtual learning delivery;
  • Requiring final report cards for all students;
  • Prioritizing and supporting students on track to graduate;
  • Distributing laptops and/or devices from schools as needed, while observing public health direction;
  • Maintaining a responsive posture for health care and community partner requests; and
  • Establishing formal COVID-19 working groups with education sector unions to work together, share ideas and to find solutions in the support of students.
  • On March 21, 2020, Ontario launched Ontario Together, an online portal helping organizations work with the province to meet the challenges of COVID-19. The government will leverage partnerships with the telecommunication sector to provide innovative, low-cost and high-impact solutions to solve the equity challenges facing some students across Ontario. With this resource, the Ministry of Education has posted a new challenge that looks for learning solutions focused on:
  • Free or low-cost learning resources and supports for students, parents and educators;
  • Access to devices such as computers, tablets and portable wi-fi hotspots for families that need the supports; and
  • Other ideas, goods or services, for example, to support mental health and students with special education needs.