Schools adapting as closure extended
By Jenn Watt
School staff have been adapting quickly to changes to the education system, and continue to work through challenges distance learning presents, a spokesperson for Trillium Lakelands District School Board said.
On Sunday, the provincial government extended the closure of publicly funded schools to May 31 in order to protect the safety of students and staff, which means the ongoing home learning efforts will need to continue for at least another month.
“From a staff perspective we believe things are going well,” said Catherine Shedden, communications manager for TLDSB. “Support from our technology services department has been ongoing and ranges from repairs to devices to training in online programs. This is new territory for many teachers, and indeed for the system as a whole. New challenges are met with concentrated discussion and problem-solving.”
A survey was sent out to parents last week to gather their perspective with results to be shared by the board this week.
“There are multiple encouraging stories being shared over social media by schools and educators across the board. This week we hope to begin a video series of helpful mental health and well-being tips for parents,” she said.
Distributing technology to students who don’t have access has been one of the ways the board is assisting families through the Learn@Home program. Although earlier this month the provincial government announced a partnership with Apple and Rogers that would provide iPads to students without access, Shedden said it primarily benefited boards closer to the GTA.
“For TLDSB we have worked to ensure that devices are available to those prioritized to receive them – in particular students with special needs, students from grades 7 to 10 using the digital backpack Edwin program, students in grades 11 and 12, and students enrolled in ongoing dual credit programs,” she said. “We have also emphasized with teaching staff that home learning is not necessarily an online learning program. There are other ways to deliver instruction for in-home learning. We are beginning a process this Tuesday of weekly delivery of printed materials to homes where internet access is not possible.”
More than 300 homes within the wider school board region do not have internet access and are having printed materials delivered.
“Since the last provincial extension [of the school closure] we have deployed almost all of our support staff to assist in the delivery of learning to students at home – this includes our secretaries, clerks, educational [assistants], and now with the delivery of paper materials, our maintenance staff,” Shedden said.