TORONTO – Students across Ontario begin online learning today, more than three weeks after COVID-19 shuttered schools in the name of physical distancing.
Teachers will lead the effort with both live and pre-recorded lessons, but the move poses challenges nonetheless.
The Ministry of Education has said that e-learning cannot fully replace the in-class experience, so the goal is to help students continue their education as much as possible during the pandemic.
And Education Minister Stephen Lecce is asking parents to help the youngest of students through the transition, even as many are working from home.
The president of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, meanwhile, has said school boards have been hearing from parents in recent weeks that they need help teaching their children at home.
Cathy Abraham said every board in the province has been crafting a local plan to address the needs of students who may not have access to the internet, computers or tablets, or whose parents may not have time to oversee their schooling.
“This is uncharted territory for everyone,” she said last Tuesday, when the extended closure was announced. “We’re just asking parents to have a little bit of patience with their school boards while they try to figure it out. It’s not going to be the same for everybody.”
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The ministry is recommending elementary students spend between five and 10 hours on learning per week, depending on the age.
High school students, it says, should spend three hours per course per week if they’re on a semestered system, or half that if their schedule isn’t split into semesters.
Lecce has said that students on track to graduate won’t be delayed due to the pandemic.
But schools will remain closed to students until at least May 4, the government has said. Schools were initially shuttered for just the two weeks following March break, but the continued spread of the novel coronavirus forced an extension.
In a letter to parents, the union representing Ontario’s elementary school teachers is urging patience as everyone adapts to this temporary new reality.
“Keep in mind that we are learning about how to do this right along with you,” the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario said. “We know that parents and caregivers are stressed and doing their best.”
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