Students across the highlands have started learning from home with the province extending school closures to at least May 4.
Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) has joined boards across the province in launching Learning at Home, Ontario’s program to keep kids learning while schools are shut during the pandemic. Students will receive instruction through a mix of online, email, printed materials, telephone and more.
Director of education Larry Hope said he is impressed with how well staff have handled readying for the program over the past two weeks, while classes were cancelled.
“Everything we do is making sure we support our students to the very best we possibly can,” Hope said.
The program will assign students less than they might under normal circumstances. Grades K-6 are assigned five hours of work per week, Grades 7-8 get 10 hours of work per week and secondary school students get three hours per credit course per week.
Hope said the workload is in consideration of the circumstances.
“It’s trying to balance the self-directed nature that a lot of the work our students will be asked for, along with competing demands in people’s homes,” Hope said.
Archie Stouffer Elementary School in Minden is restarting with an added spirit week, encouraging students to partake in several Easter-based activities, such as egg painting. Principal Jane Austin said the school has suggested activities for its students throughout the three-week break as well.
“It’s just really to engage the kids in some fun and keep them connected,” Austin said. “We just really wanted to continue that feeling of the kids belonging to a larger family. To give them that sense of ease and comfort.”
She said the school is working through the hurdles of the transition as a team and taking steps to get whatever technology students need into their homes.
“The staff have been absolutely fantastic,” Austin said. “The sharing of innovative ideas and just the connections they’ve been making with families have been pretty incredible.”
Grade 11 student Jacob Dobson said although he will miss the school environment and knows some will have difficulties switching to online, he thinks he can adapt.
“It’s important that people are able to complete their years
and their courses and to get those credits, versus just leaving them where they
are,” Dobson said.
The Ministry of Education is closing school buildings until at least May 4. Hope said they can only plan for that date but have an understanding they may have to be prepared to go beyond it.
He added schools are working with families to figure out what service delivery will work for them, knowing online may not work universally. Special needs students are also being looked after, he said.
“We’re mindful of students with special needs, we’re mindful of students at varying levels of reading skills,” Hope said. “We got a good cohort of teachers and staff available to support those kids.”