If pandemic shutters schools again, Hamilton school boards are prepared

·2 min read

Hamilton’s Catholic board isn’t expecting pandemic-related school closures, but it’s preparing just in case.

Over the past few months, the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board (HWCDSB) has surveyed its families and prepared for the whole system to transition to remote learning.

“We’ve been getting ready for quite some time. We’ve been looking at technology, the various types of devices we’d need — like iPads, computers, that kind of thing — for both staff and students to make sure we have enough stock in case we move to complete closure,” said Pat Daly, chair of the HWCDSB.

“We’re making sure our staff would be comfortable and ready if we were to move online again.”

COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Hamilton and across Ontario.

The city has reported a surge of more than 200 cases over the last four days.

The increase puts the city on track to reach “orange” alert level — one alert level above the current yellow — that threatens further closures and restrictions.

Daly said the Ministry of Education has advised the board to be prepared in case of system-wide closures, though there’s been no indication that will happen.

“They have strongly, strongly advised school boards to be ready for that possibility. We’ve been aware of it ourselves, and we’ve been working hard to prepare, hoping that what we prepare won’t ever be needed.”

Hamilton’s public school board has also outlined plans for potential school closures.

Shawn McKillop, Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) spokesperson, said the ministry asked school boards to check-in with families about remote learning preparedness earlier in October, as cases rose across the province.

HWDSB families have been instructed to complete a survey due Wednesday at midnight indicating how prepared they are to have their children learn remotely in case of school closures.

At this point, however, school closures are unlikely.

Hamilton school boards have reported a small handful of outbreaks in schools, none of which have resulted in school closures.

As of Tuesday, Hamilton schools and child-care centres had reported a total of 31 COVID-19 cases. The vast majority of cases are transmitted outside the school setting and pose a low risk to the school community.

Jacob Lorinc, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator