Director’s letter to families about extended school closures
March 31, 2020
Subject: HPEDSB school closures during the month of April (COVID-19 pandemic) (Pdf version)
Dear Students, Parents/Guardians, Families and Staff:
Let me start by sharing that, as an experienced educator in Ontario for the past three decades, I have never seen nor experienced anything quite like what we are going through now in public education. But perhaps more importantly, and more meaningful to most of you, as a father of two sons, I am sharing the same concerns and conversations that many of you are having. It is a time that we will look back on years from now, and talk about how we managed to work through it, how we became closer as a community, and I hope, how we, as families, became closer, as well. As I have remarked numerous times in the last few weeks, we are witnessing and living history in real-time, right before our eyes.
Earlier today, I participated in a conference call with the Minister of Education, Deputy Minister of Education, other Directors of Education in the province and Chairs of Ontario school boards. The nature of the call was to communicate expectations and provide direction as we prepare for a prolonged closure of all schools.
Today the Premier announced that all Ontario school boards are to close schools to teachers until May 1, 2020 and students until May 4, 2020. This unprecedented closure is based on the advice and evidence of the Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health. There is no further information at this time regarding whether the closures will go past that date. The decision is solely based on ensuring and protecting the health and safety of the people of Ontario, including students, staff, families and our communities.
We, at the HPEDSB, realize that these closures present numerous challenges for learning, including having access to technology, graduations and the student school experience, in general. I also recognize that you have many questions, and I commit to all of you that we will try to answer and communicate information that is prudent, factual, and responsive to our school communities.
Accordingly, the HPEDSB is taking the following actions at this time:
- changing our entire approach to providing education and way of doing business during this extended school closure period;
- providing a robust and credible continuity of learning environment that will be different from the regular classroom experience by utilizing technology, virtual and online learning, and remote teacher-student contact;
- developing a plan for controlled access to schools to allow staff to retrieve professional materials and learning supplies, and families to access student personal belongings;
- making available an inventory of credible online learning resources through our HPEDSB Learning at Home website for families to use at home, and staff and students to be able to use during this closure period; and
- effective immediately, making available, through ads in weekly community newspapers, educator-created learning activities that do not require screen time or technology.
I recognize that you want to know more about the short- and long-term future of education and the many related concerns, such as supporting your children with special needs, accessing technology at home, teacher-student contact time, the future of students who are on track to graduate this June and even co-op placements. We are working very hard to address all of these scenarios during the most challenging situation many of us have faced, and amid a constantly changing environment.
We, at the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board, also recognize that many of you are facing challenges in accessing food, clothing, technology and even safe housing. We accept that, throughout this time, the role of HPEDSB is changing and that we are being called upon, more and more, to assist in providing basic necessities for an increasing number of our families. We commit to serving this social responsibility.
The Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board also strongly believes that our decisions must be made through an equity perspective.
My staff and I are committed to maintaining communication, timely updates, and clear and supportive actions under these incredibly challenging times. As I said in a previous letter home to families and staff, we need to safeguard the following priorities in this order of importance:
- our health, and the health of our families and loved ones;
- our safety and the basic necessities we are fortunate to have, and that others may not have;
- our responsibility to each other, especially our most vulnerable; and
- our children’s education and their academic needs.
With your support and the support of my team, we will approach a very uncertain future together, but one that we will overcome together, buoyed by resiliency and the strength of our families and communities.
I ask that you take all the necessary precautions and safety measures, and I wish you to all take very good care of yourself and each other.
Director of Education