Public school board in Simcoe County has launched Distance Learning for students amid COVID-19 outbreak

School board is working to help students who lack access to the internet or have other technology issues

School is back after two weeks was tacked on to the end of March break because of the pandemic. When the Education Minister announced an extension of school closures for teachers until May 1 and for students until May 4, the last week or so has been a steep learning curve for students, parents, teachers, education workers, administrators, school board staff, trustees and others.

Kids are now learning their courses with the support of their teachers online. The Simcoe County District School Board is calling this Distance Learning.

Jodi Llloyd, chairperson of the Simcoe County District School Board, said she was pleased with the first day, admitting there will be bumps along the road as they do this because it’s never been done before.

She said the feedback has been positive.

“A lot of parents are expressing gratitude. There is a little bit of normality now.”

Lloyd said many Grade 11 and 12 students are anxious because these are pivotal years for them and they are happy to be moving forward with the opportunity to finish those credits and to move to postsecondary.

The Education Minister has said that all students will graduate and all students will move on to the next grade in the fall.

For more than a week teachers have reached out to families to get an inventory of the needs of each student. Lloyd said the board realizes not every student has equal access to the internet and technology, so they will be customizing to meet the needs of every student.

The board is looking at various options including delivery of paper packages to families who don’t have the internet or delivery of technology to students where the family has one computer but three children.

Teachers were given access to schools last week to get what they needed to begin teaching the curriculum online, while principals and IT also entered the schools to gather items that might be needed to help students who are challenged in areas such as technology.

Lloyd doesn’t believe there is a drop-dead date in mind at the Ministry of Education where it would be pointless to resume the school year back in the classroom.

“The purpose of this plan is to continue with learning and teaching the curriculum in a different way. We can’t do what we did in school.”

For older grades, the second semester started in February. Lloyd said students were already enrolled in classes and will now be working with teachers to complete the required work for those credits.

Llloyd said the Ministry is still addressing assessment concerns but added all students are being given the opportunity to complete their credits and work that is needed in order to graduate.

She is pleased how teachers and educators have risen to the occasion.

“It has been a challenge for everyone but they are committed to achieving and doing the best they can for their students.”

Challenging as this has been, there are more tough decisions that may have to be made in the future said Lloyd if they can’t safely return to school before June. She is referring to proms and graduation ceremonies.

She notes that postsecondary institutions made a decision in the spring to cancel graduation in June.

“Decisions will have to be made around those issues. We will need to make some difficult and challenging decisions.”