School boards prepare for return to virtual learning

Close-up shot of a female learner typing on a laptop keyboard. © Can Stock Photo / pressmaster

Students across Ontario, including Lambton-Kent, will return to virtual learning on Wednesday.

Premier Doug Ford made the announcement Monday, with a targeted date of January 17 for students to return to the classroom. The decision was made due to increasing concerns over the Omicron COVID variant.

Lambton-Kent District School Board Director John Howitt said staff spent the day Monday planning, and informing parents of the plans moving forward.

“Certainly, we have done it before and every time it’s a bit different,” said Howitt. “It’s not easy. Virtual learning is difficult in many homes especially where an adult is also trying to work or there are multiple children within the family trying to share the WIFI. We are aware of the anxieties that families might be facing.”

Howitt said students needing learning devices will be able to pick them up from the school.

“Students and parents need to be reasonable in their expectations of getting their work done. Obviously for our secondary students it’s a very important time as we approach the end of the semester so really focus on completing those credits. For our elementary families, recognize what you’re able to do and accept that and communicate it back to us through the teachers, ECEs and principals in the building.”

He said principals, mental health supports, and other school staff are always ready and willing to help out.

The St. Clair Catholic District School Board has also updated its website to include information for parents and students impacted by the delay.

With COVID cases continuing to surge across the province, Premier Doug Ford said schools are also expected to experience staffing shortages.

“The level of absenteeism we’re seeing in other sectors tells us with absolute certainty that operating schools, ensuring teachers are on the job and not home sick, will be a challenge we cannot overcome in the short term,” said Ford. “I want to provide parents and students with certainty, not the turmoil of school closures because not enough staff are available to teach our kids.”

No additional health or safety measures were announced for schools moving forward.

Last Thursday, Ontario Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore announced teachers would be provided with N95 masks, students would be provided 3-ply cloth masks, and more HEPA filters would be delivered to schools.