Niagara school boards are coming to terms with the fact students here will remain at home Monday.
“We know that the optimal place for students to learn is in-person with their teacher, in their classroom,” District School Board of Niagara education director Warren Hoshizaki said Thursday.
“However, we fully support the decision from the province because safety of our students and staff is always top priority. We are fully prepared to continue supporting students and families with remote learning.”
On Wednesday, Ontario announced Schools in Grey Bruce, Peterborough, Haliburton and Kingston are among those in southern Ontario allowed to open their doors to students to attend class in person, starting Monday.
Schools in the north welcomed children back Monday, with a few exceptions in communities that saw a sharp jump in cases over the holidays.
The seven areas where elementary and secondary students can resume in-person learning on Jan. 25 are: Haliburton/Kawartha/Pine Ridge; Peterborough; Grey Bruce; Hastings/Prince Edward; Leeds/Grenville/Lanark; Renfrew; Kingston/Frontenac/Lennox & Addington.
Students in all other southern Ontario public health districts, including Niagara, will remain online for now, and the government gave no specific timeline other than to say the chief medical officer of health will monitor COVID cases and determine when kids can return.
Niagara Catholic District School Board education director Camillo Cipriano said, “We continue to find ways to ensure that students are actively engaged during the school day and that we meet the needs of students wherever they are in their learning.
“We understand that all of this is difficult, and we are so proud of the excellent work that is happening online by our students, teachers, administrators and support staff to keep advancing learning.”
Despite confidence in abilities to navigate the uncharted waters that is a global pandemic, neither of board has received any indication regarding the criteria the Education Ministry or the province’s chief medical officer of health has set for schools to reopen safely.
“Creating a one-size-fits-all approach to school reopening is a challenge,” Cipriano said. “We have regular meetings with the ministry and public health and will continue to look forward to open dialogue with the ministry through the end of the school year.”
He added, “We did receive requests for technology support and assistance from families when schools first reopened after the Christmas break and have supported families with their requests. We recognize that as this continues, families may experience technology issues for many reasons, and we encourage them to contact their child’s school if they do have challenges.”
DSBN also acknowledged hardships of remote learning.
“Any families who have questions about their child’s remote learning are strongly encouraged to contact their teacher and principal,” said Hoshizaki. “It’s important to us that this time of remote learning meets the needs of all our students, and we are here to support our students and their families.”
The Niagara Falls Review reached out to Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff, parliamentary assistant to Education Minister Stephen Lecce, but he has not been available for an interview.
With files from the Toronto Star
Sean Vanderklis is a Niagara-based reporter for the Niagara Falls Review. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sean Vanderklis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara Falls Review