London, Ont., and area school boards are pivoting to online learning as news comes that schools will once again be going remote amid rising COVID-19 cases numbers.
Both the London District Catholic School Board (LDCSB) and Thames Valley District School Board (LDCSB) say they will be ready to start online learning in some capacity on Jan. 5.
“I am not surprised by today’s announcement. I am a huge proponent of in-person learning — I think it is the best option for students, but I don’t want to put students and staff in a position where we cannot guarantee their safety,” said TVDSB director of education Mark Fisher.
“Our staff members are relieved they have this period of time to adjust and make sure all of the updated health and safety protocols are in place. Obviously there is disappointment in the community that we are not going back to face-to-face learning.”
On Monday, the Ford government announced that as part of their response to the Omicron variant, all students will pivot to remote learning, with free emergency child care planned for schools.
“All publicly funded and private schools will move to remote learning starting Jan. 5 until at least Jan. 17, subject to public health trends and operational considerations,” the government said.
The move comes less than a week after Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, said students would return to the classroom this Wednesday after the holiday break. Now, instead of a return to the classroom, students will be headed online.
“This is not the first time we have pivoted to remote learning, so we are going to follow the same process we did in the past,” said LDCSB education director Vince Romeo.
Romeo says they will be working to make sure all students have access to the technology they need.
“Ultimately, we want to see students in our schools learning face to face, but the reality of our current environment has us thinking what will a pivot back to remote learning look like,” Romeo said.
“The transition to instruction and engaging students in an online environment will be the focus for the next couple of days.”
Before the winter break, both the TVDSB and LDCSB advised students to bring all of their belonging home in the event they went online.
How long the move will last is still unknown, with both school boards saying there is the potential for the Jan. 17th time to be extended.
“We have to make sure schools are safe before we can return to in-person learning,” Fisher said.
“The good news is that we are very comfortable on these digital platforms. We have deployed tens of thousands of devices and we will make sure no student is unnecessarily harmed as a result of this pivot to virtual learning.”
Over the last few weeks, case numbers in the London Middlesex region have been rapidly increasing, with record-setting numbers multiple days in a row.
The move to online learning was just one of many new measures the Ontario government announced to stop the spread of COVID-19, including new capacity limits.
— with files from Global News’ Gabby Rodrigues