BY CLOVER STERLING AND ALEX GREGORY
Premier Doug Ford speaks during a press conference held Tuesday afternoon alongside Education Minister Stephen Lecce (left). The province announced Tuesday that schools throughout the province, including in Peel, would remain closed for the rest of the 2019‐20 school year. (PWN Staff) School isn’t out for summer – but it might feel that way for many students. The direction of the current school year in Peel has been decided, the province revealed earlier this week. As a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the risk to students, all publicly funded schools in province will not reopen for the rest of the school-year. As a result, e-learning will continue at home and all students will receive a report card. Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce made the announcement at a news conference Tuesday. “The safety of our children is our top priority, and at-home learning will continue,” said Ford. “One thing I will never do is take unnecessary risk with the lives of our children.” While the province is looking to bring students back for the 2020-21 school year, no set timetable was given, and both Ford and Lecce said they were focused on protecting students in the here and now. Lecce thanked the Chief Medical Officer of Health for providing a guideline to the unanimous decision on keeping schools closed. “I know this will feel different and I know this will not be easy on (students),” Lecce said, “but I have every confidence, we have every confidence in you, in your efforts, in your determination, (and) the state of this Province best embraced by the sons and daughters of Ontario’s next generation.” Some of the initiatives outlined by the province at Tuesday’s conference include boosts to summer learning programs, along with additional support for vulnerable, LGBTQ+, Black and First Nations sectors, Lecce indicated.
The programming is aimed at giving students additional opportunities to gain additional course credits, Lecce indicated. The announcement was echoed by Peel District School Board’s (PDSB) Director of Education Peter Joshua, who issued a letter to families assuring them that all necessary measures have been looked at to keeping students safe as they continue to learn at home. “Because of the number of unknowns and many safety considerations, this process will be complex,” said Joshua. “Although we have examples to look to outside of Ontario, we want to make the best decisions for students and staff we serve in Peel.”. He said Over the next several weeks and months, the Board will work with the provincial government, Peel Public Health, other school boards and education partners to plan for re-opening. What that will look like, however, still isn’t known yet, said Joshua, but he stated that “every precaution and action will be taken to ensure a safe, effective and equitable return as possible for Peel District School Board staff and students.” Tuesday’s conference saw Lecce also acknowledge that parents are going to need more support now more than ever to help their children, enabling them to learn while they are at home. School boards will be administering various programs and parents are encouraged to speak with them over the coming weeks to voluntarily sign up. a