Hamilton public school board preparing for province-wide remote learning in early 2021 – Hamilton

Schools across Ontario will be closed after the winter holidays, with students learning remotely at the beginning of January.

As part of the province-wide shutdown, elementary schools will be closed until Jan. 11, while high school students will be doing virtual learning until Jan. 25.

Premier Doug Ford made the announcement on Monday while releasing further details about the widespread lockdown.

He said the decision is being made out of an abundance of caution and that schools are not the primary locations of transmission for COVID-19.

“Asking students and staff to stay home a little longer will help ensure we do what’s needed to control the spread,” said Ford.

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Coronavirus: Government delays return of in-person classes for Ontario schools

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It’s a reversal from a little over a month ago, when Ontario education minister Stephen Lecce said the province would not be extending the holiday break.

During an appearance on Global News Radio 900 CHML’s Bill Kelly Show on Dec. 3, Lecce said the chief medical officer of health had the “discretion” to extend the break if there was a potential risk to students.

“Keeping schools open, I believe, is the most pressing societal imperative of any government, of any society,” said Lecce at the time.

Amid rising COVID-19 infections across the province, the Ministry of Education issued a memo to school boards last week, asking them to prepare for the possibility of fully-remote learning after the holidays.

Dawn Danko, chair of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, said this announcement should have been made much sooner, given that it was clear that cases have been on the rise for several weeks.

“This is not a surprise,” said Danko on The Bill Kelly Show on Monday morning. “We knew weeks ago that we were into an exponential growth curve of COVID cases. That means they were going to continue to escalate.”

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The board only received a heads up from the ministry about the shift to online learning late last week — two days before the beginning of the winter break — and Danko said that didn’t leave staff a lot of time to figure out a distribution plan for devices.

“You can imagine how that complicates things unnecessarily. We could have had this decision earlier, and that’s the leadership we were really hoping for.”

As of Monday, remote learning is only scheduled to take place for one week for elementary students, and three weeks for high school students.

Danko said secondary school students are already equipped to learn from home, but she’s concerned about the process of distributing devices to families with elementary students.

“We do have a very comprehensive plan. We have about 6,000 devices ready to be deployed to families, but we need time to do that.”

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That could also involve ensuring families with limited access to the internet at home have a device that can reliably get online.

Danko said they’ll be working on a “deployment strategy” over the holidays and will be communicating with families when more information is available.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Ontario Premier Ford announces provincewide lockdown amid rising case numbers'

Coronavirus: Ontario Premier Ford announces provincewide lockdown amid rising case numbers

Coronavirus: Ontario Premier Ford announces provincewide lockdown amid rising case numbers

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