Ontario's largest school board planning for 'extended closure' amid COVID-19 pandemic

Ontario's largest school board is developing a plan to deliver online lessons to nearly 250,000 students in preparation for an extended closure amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter to parents on Wednesday, the Toronto District School Board said that while they don't know yet when schools will reopen, they are working on a plan to deliver the curriculum to students at home.

"Premier Doug Ford has announced that schools will not be returning on April 6, 2020 as initially scheduled," director of education John Malloy wrote.

“The Ministry of Education has asked school boards to use the next two weeks to develop plans to establish the delivery of curriculum for an extended closure. Working with the Ministry, we are developing a plan that would connect teachers to their students and/or their parents/guardians on a system-wide basis and would restore teacher-led learning to the greatest extent possible.”

In the meantime, parents are being encouraged to continue using the Learn at Home resource rolled out by the provincial government last week and use student learning resources provided by the school board.

Elementary students are being offered a suite of educational programming on Television Ontario (TVO) including shows that teach mathematics, science and language.

High school students have access to an online learning portal that includes applied and academic courses to avoid what the government calls "learning loss."

"As you can imagine, developing a plan for 247,000 students while schools are closed and on an extremely tight timeline, is challenging to say the least," Malloy wrote.

"At the same time, our goal is to create teaching and learning conditions that will, as best as possible given the circumstances, lead to the successful completion of the school year for all students and to support students in advancing to the next school year and to graduate."

The province initially said that students would spend an additional two weeks away from the classroom during an extended March Break but Ford acknowledged on Monday that COVID-19 expands that timeline.

"The reality is April 6 is not realistic right now," Ford said during a news conference at Queen’s Park. "We're in a state of emergency."

"Our priority is making sure our kids are safe, that's our number one priority."