On March 20, 2020, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced the first phase of the government’s “Learn at Home” initiative, which will ensure the continuation of learning for students affected by school closures in Ontario due to COVID-19. Premier Ford and Minister Lecce were joined by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones and Minister of Finance Rod Phillips.
Today’s announcement follows an earlier decision by Minister Lecce to cancel all remaining standardized tests for the 2019-20 school year, including EQAO and the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test. The literacy requirement for students graduating in the 2019-20 school year has also been waived.
Premier Ford and Minister Elliott also answered questions about possible additional measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 and the capacity of Ontario’s health care system.
“Learn at Home” Initiative – Minister Stephen Lecce
Minister Lecce announced the first stage of “Learn at Home” and “Apprendre à la maison,” a new education portal which is designed to help mitigate learning loss during the two-week closure of Ontario schools following March break. “Learn at Home” has been designed in line with Ontario’s K-12 curriculum and will offer resources in both English and French, including math and literacy resources created by Ontario educators. As part of this initiative, certified tutors will also be available through TVO to help students.
Elementary resources offered by “Learn at Home” will include interactive activities with a focus on entertaining digital content. High school content will focus on STEM courses, ensuring that core competencies and skills are reinforced. Resources will also be made available to support parents as their children learn at home.
Minister Lecce assured that his team is working hard to ensure continuous service and is working with education stakeholders to see how “Learn at Home” resources can be built on. He also announced that a second phase of “Learn at Home” will be released if schools are required to remain closed beyond the current timeframe, ending April 6th. This second phase would feature a greater emphasis on online learning.
For students who do not have access to a computer, work is underway with school boards to ensure that the necessary technology is provided to everyone who needs it.
In response to questions about indefinite school closures in other provinces, Minister Lecce confirmed that a decision to extend the closure of Ontario schools would be made based on the recommendation of Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. David Williams.
Minister Lecce also reassured students planning on entering college and university in the fall that work is underway with the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities to ensure that ongoing application processes for the 2020-21 academic year continue.
Additional Measures to Combat COVID-19 and Support Ontarians – Premier Doug Ford
In response to questions about the recently announced stay-at-home order issued for California’s 40-million residents, Premier Ford reiterated that all options remain on the table and that he will not hesitate to shut down additional businesses if such advice is given by Dr. Williams.
Premier Ford encouraged Ontarians to continue to stay at home and focus on social distancing, while conceding that closing interprovincial borders, specifically the Ontario-Quebec border, would be difficult to enforce.
When questioned about possible support for tenants unable to pay rent due to layoffs or work closures, Premier Ford said his government is consulting the federal government on the details of their stimulus package. He stressed that tenants who continue to work and earn an income should continue to pay rent but emphasized that his government will not allow anyone to be evicted from their rental unit as a result of COVID-19.
Capacity of Health Care System – Minister Christine Elliott
Minister Elliott spoke about the government’s actions to mitigate ongoing capacity challenges in Ontario’s health care system. She mentioned that the availability of ventilators, rather than a lack of health human resources, remains the province’s biggest issue. Ontario has received a shipment of 300 new ventilators and is looking to producers to be able to make more within the province. The government is also relying on the support of physician and dental offices, that have offered to loan ventilators not currently being used due to practice closures.
Minister Elliott also expressed concern in response to questions about confirmed cases of COVID-19 at a long-term care home in Durham. She said that public health officials are thoroughly investigating to determine the source of the outbreak.
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