Normally at this time, with the annual March “Spring” Break starting next week, I would be wishing everyone a restful and rejuvenating time with family and friends.
But these are not normal times given the COVID-19 pandemic. This is truly an unprecedented period for the education sector and Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board is no exception.
School closures March 14 to April 5, 2020
I am writing to explain more about the provincial announcement regarding schools closing for three weeks, from Saturday, March 14 to Sunday, April 5, 2020. I, along with the Senior Team, and the Chair of the Board Lucille Kyle, participated in a conference call with the Ministry of Education and all school boards in the province late in the day on March 12, 2020. During that call, Ministry officials provided background and more details.
The Ministry officials recognize that the decision to close schools is unprecedented in Ontario. It was a very difficult decision and was based on strong advice from the Ontario Medical Officer of Health and the provincial Command Table (the group which is the single point of oversight providing executive leadership and strategic direction to guide Ontario’s response to COVID-19).
Information about novel coronavirus is posted to our COVID-19 page.
More importantly, and for everyone in our HPEDSB family, I want to explain what to expect here at HPEDSB. All decisions taken both provincially, and locally in HPEDSB are based on one premise: the safety of our students, staff, volunteers and families.
Consequently, we are taking the following actions effective March 14 through to April 5, 2020 (unless otherwise noted):
- Every employee will continue to be paid, as usual. No employee will be adversely affected financially.
- During March 16-20, 2020 extensive cleaning and disinfecting will be done at all schools. Contractors scheduled to work in schools during March Break will continue to do so. Following that, ALL SCHOOLS WILL BE LOCKED AND INACCESSIBLE FROM MARCH 21 TO APRIL 5, 2020. NO STAFF/ADMINISTRATION WILL BE PERMITTED TO ENTER OUR SCHOOLS; THIS INCLUDES MAINTENANCE/CUSTODIAL STAFF. The only exception will management and supervisors checking school heating and controls systems. It is imperative that NO STAFF/ADMINISTRATION enter our schools from March 14 to April 5, 2020 inclusive.
- All schools and administrative buildings are closed to lease and permit holders, including all day child care, before and after school child care and EarlyON programs.
- All community use permits are cancelled for the 3-week closure.
- Any March Break camps scheduled to be hosted in our schools during the March 16-20, 2020 are cancelled effective immediately.
- The Education Centre and administrative buildings will be closed to the public during March Break and the following two weeks. A small number of employees will be at work although anyone who is able to work from home is encouraged to do so after checking with their supervisor.
- The Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT) scheduled for March 31, 2020 is postponed until further notice. At this time we have no information as to whether there will be an opportunity to write the OSSLT at all this year.
- Further to the cancellation of international trips announced earlier this week, all extended/overnight school trips are cancelled until further notice. This includes any trips within or outside Ontario.
- All student co-op placements and dual credit programs are cancelled, during this shutdown, and will be re-evaluated once we return to school and normal work structures.
- The Centurion Hoops Basketball Program is postponed until further notice.
- All local negotiations are suspended until further notice.
During the conference call, the Ministry advised that the timeline for the “Support for Parents” website relating to childcare reimbursement during job action will not be extended. Some families may be able to apply for financial reimbursement through the federal program announced yesterday. No reimbursement for childcare or other expenses will be provided through HPEDSB. The Ministry also advised that a decision to extend the school year has not been made as of yet; it is on their radar and we will share more when we can.
As I said, these actions are unprecedented and speak to the level of concern about the COVID-19 pandemic.
To all of you, I appreciate these are truly uncertain times and that anxiety and emotions may be running high. It has been a very challenging year, and yet we have endured and made it this far. We will make it through this. Whatever challenges or divisions that may exist, I ask all HPEDSB staff and families to come together in an environment of support and comfort.
I wish you a restful March Break.