London, Ont., public board reassures students over potentially lengthy school closures

The public school board in London, Ont., expects more concrete information from the province early next week on how long school closures will extend.

The Thames Valley District School Board’s director of education, Mark Fisher, told Global News on Thursday that he believes Premier Doug Ford will make an announcement either Monday or Tuesday with an update on the status of Ontario’s publicly-funded schools.

“We definitely anticipate the school closure being extended,” said Fisher.

“My best guess is that it’s going to be longer than two weeks.”

On March 12, the Ontario government first announced that all publicly-funded schools would be shut down for two weeks after March Break due to concerns about the novel coronavirus.

On March 23, Premier Ford confirmed suspicions that publicly-funded schools would not reopen on April 6 as initially expected, but only said at the time that an announcement would be coming in the future.

Fisher also noted that, with the expectation that school closures could extend for some time, the board is working on a comprehensive plan to address students’ educational needs.

“On April 6 forward, I expect much more formal interaction between students and teachers. Some of those details are still being worked out at the provincial level,” Fisher said.

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“I know the provincial labour leaders in the ministry are working back and forth to talk about what the exact requirements will be. But I know our teachers in Thames Valley are committed to our students.”

He also addressed concerns about students’ access to resources going forward.

“We know a lot of our students don’t have access to the technology itself or families that have multiple siblings. So we’re taking a look at our internal resources, Chromebooks, iPods, laptops, making sure they’re thoroughly cleaned and we’re in the process of developing a distribution system so those that need technology will get technology,” he explained.

“For those students that live in the more rural and remote areas that don’t have access to the internet, we are working on the development of print resources and print documents to make sure that those students aren’t left behind.

“I want to make it really, really clear we’re going to ensure that no student is left worse off as a result of this stoppage.”

Fisher also stressed that students in Grade 12 who are on pace to graduate will still graduate and that every student in grade eight who expects to move on to high school next school year will still move on to high school.

“We will make sure that no single student’s year is jeopardized as a result of this crisis.”

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