UPDATE: Schools to remain closed until at least May

Vacant desks are pictured at the front of a empty classroom at McGee Secondary school in Vancouver on Sept. 5, 2014 (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Public schools across Ontario will remain closed to students until May 4th in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the provincial government has confirmed.

"As I've told you before the situation continues to change day-by-day, and hour-by-hour,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said at a news conference on Tuesday. "In order to protect our children, I'm prepared to extend these closures even further, if we have to."

Earlier this month, Education Minister Stephen Lecce ordered schools closed for two weeks following March break, and the premier said last week schools will not be reopening April 6.

Ford, along with Lecce, made the announcement while simultaneously unveiling the province's new distance learning tools for teachers and students to use over the next several weeks.

According to the government, the second phase of the "Learn at Home" program will provide additional tools for at-home learning to ensure that students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 are well-equipped during the significant time away from the classroom.

The government's new program is split into four grade groupings, including Kindergarten to Grade 3, Grades 4 to 6, Grades 7 to 8 and Grades 9 to 12:

Kindergarten-Grade 3

  • Five hours of work per student, per week with a focus on literacy and math

Grades 4-6

  • Five hours of work per student, per week with a focus on literacy, math, science and social studies

Grades 7-8

  • 10 hours of work per student, per week with a focus on math, literacy, science and social studies

Grades 9-12

  • Three hours of work per course, per week for semestered students; 1.5 hours of work per course per week for non-semestered students with focus on achieving credits/completion/graduation.

The government made clear that no student will have their graduation compromised due to COVID-19, saying that the Ministry of Education continues to work with the Ministry of Colleges and Universities to make sure that there are no barriers to accessing post secondary education.

In regards to the technical aspects of Learn at Home, Lecce said teachers will be using phones, video conferencing and email to keep in touch with students while delivering portions of the curriculum.

The province also said that they will be distributing laptops and/or devices from schools as needed, to facilitate the online learning program.

With files from CTV News.