March 20, 2020
Dear Peel District School Board Community,
This is a stressful and uncertain time for all of us—students, families, educators and support staff. We miss our colleagues and students and hope to see everyone soon. However, safety is a priority and so we must continue to take the advice of public health experts and adhere to the direction of government officials to keep us healthy.
It continues to be our goal to keep you as informed and up-to-date as possible. Thank you for staying connected! Please consider our online FAQ as your primary source of Peel board COVID-19-related information. That being said, here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions we've received.
Will the government extend the mandated school closure?
All Peel District School Board schools, worksites and programs continue to be closed/cancelled until April 5, 2020. At this time, an extension has not been announced by the government. This, of course, may change, as this continues to be a rapidly evolving situation. We will inform the community if and when an extension beyond April 5, 2020, is mandated.
What is happening with EQAO and OSSLT?
The Ministry of Education has cancelled all EQAO assessments for the 2019–20 school year. This includes the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT). As such, for this school year only, the ministry is waiving the literacy graduation requirement. Students who were scheduled to write the OSSLT this year, but are not graduating this school year, will write the OSSLT in the 2020-21 school year.
Will students be provided with learning opportunities during the closure?
Teachers are not collecting or assessing student work between now and April 5, 2020. As such, students are not expected to complete any work, assessments or evaluations at this time. This being said, it is always a good idea for students to practice their skills and what they've learned. To help with this, the ministry launched the first phase of its Learn at Home online portal today. The portal includes supplementary resources elementary and secondary students can use to practice and learn math and literacy skills at home. The ministry is also working with TVO and TFO to roll-out education programming on their broadcast channels, with a phased-in approach that is set to start next week.
The ministry has said that these resources do not replace what students have been learning at school, but are intended to help mitigate learning loss during the COVID-19 shutdown period. They have also indicated that they will launch phase two of their Learn at Home online portal if the closure extends beyond April 5.
In addition, the ministry has asked school boards to use the next two weeks to develop plans to re-establish the delivery of curriculum, and to explore ways to provide students with access to devices and Wifi in the event the closure is extended. In creating our plan, we will collaborate with administrators, educators, and union and federation partners to explore a range of ways that educators will be able to reach students during the shutdown. Online learning environments, like Brightspace, will be considered, but we will also explore ways to deliver the curriculum outside of the Internet.
Like you, we have serious concerns about equity of access to technology and Wifi, as well as worries about how all students, including those with English as a Second Language and Special Education needs, will be supported. Our goal is to ensure that every student has access to learning during the closure, and we will be working diligently to ensure all learning needs are met. Once a plan is in place, we will share it with staff, students and families.
What mental health supports are available to me and my child/teen?
This is a stressful time for everyone, and it's normal to feel anxious and worried. Students may also be feeling a range of emotions and be struggling with time away from school and friends, or a lack of understanding about COVID-19 and the reasons for school closures. Changes to routine, financial uncertainty and other stressors may also be impacting you or your family's well-being at this time.
School Mental Health Ontario has shared resources online that we can use to support student mental health during this challenging time. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has also shared information on how to talk to children and adolescents about COVID-19. Mental health resources for adults are also available on the CAMH website.
Children and teens can also reach out to counsellors at Kids Help Phone who are available 24/7 via phone, text or online chat. Kidshelpphone.ca also has a number of online resources you can access. You can access their services by calling 1-800-668-6868 or by texting CONNECT to 686868.
Staff can find support through the board's Employee Family Assistance Program (EFAP).
What community supports are available?
Here are a few supports that are available to families in Peel Region:
- We have reached out to the YMCA, who help to run a large number of breakfast and other nutrition programs in Peel board schools, to see how we can continue to support students in need despite the state of emergency. They have indicated that they are consulting with Student Nutrition Ontario and will reach out to us early next week. We will continue to explore the feasibility of continuing these programs and keep communities updated on our progress.
- A directory that provides information about food programs, including food banks and meal services, that are available across Peel Region can be found on the Region of Peel website.
- To learn about Canada's COVID-19 Economic Response Plan and how the government is prepared to help Canadians who are facing financial hardship, visit the Government of Canada website.
Peel Learning Foundation continues to support Peel board students in need through donations to local food banks and individualized support. If you are able to give at this time, please consider a donation to the foundation. It is one way to help students and families who are struggling and/or living in poverty. You may also consider donating to United Way Greater Toronto's Local Love in a Global Crisis COVID-19 campaign or accessing their supports.
How can I protect myself and others from COVID-19?
Now more than ever, we must take care of ourselves and each other. We can do this by following the advice of Peel Public Health and other public health agencies. Please review their advice on how you can protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
Where can I learn more?
We will continue to do our best to respond to inquiries we receive by email and social media, but given the volume of questions, there may be delays. Again, please check our FAQ first as it is being updated regularly. You can also:
- Subscribe to your school's website.
- Follow the Peel board on social media—follow @PeelSchools on Twitter and Instagram, and/or like our page at www.facebook.com/peelschools. In the event that there is a technology failure and websites aren't working, we will continue to post updates on the board's social media channels.
- Email email@example.com if your question isn't answered on our FAQ.
Although schools and offices are closed, some staff members are currently working to ensure core operational services continue. Our hope it to minimize the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Peel board students, staff and families.
In addition to support being provided during the COVID-19 closure, the Board of Trustees and members of the senior leadership team are working through the directives that came out of the Ministry of Education's review of the Peel District School Board. The board remains committed to taking immediate action on all of the directives in each of the four sections of the report: governance and leadership, equity and human rights, anti-Black racism, and human resources and organizational alignment. Updates on the board's progress on each of the directives will be posted to the board's website.
We appreciate your ongoing patience and understanding during these unprecedented times. Stay healthy, and please take care of yourselves and each other.
Director of Education