Director Message - March 23, 2020

Limestone Learning Foundation
Director Message - March 23, 2020
Posted on 03/23/2020
Image of Director of Education graphicDear Families,

As you may have heard earlier today via the media, the Premier of Ontario has indicated that publicly funded schools in Ontario will NOT reopen April 6, 2020 as originally planned, given the increasing challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Premier has indicated we should expect more specific information soon from the Minister of Education. 

We know this is upsetting news but one Directors of Education across the province support. We must ensure the safety and well-being of all students, families, staff and the broader community. Closing schools, and non-essential services as announced earlier today as well, will help slow the spread of this virus.

There remain many questions as to what this extended closure will mean for our students and staff. I wish we had all the answers, but we do not. What I do know is that we will continue to consult and collaborate with the Ministry of Education and our education, health care and community partners to determine the next best steps. As has been said many times over, these are unprecedented times, and we will be as responsive as possible. Please keep in mind that our system has just returned from March Break today and we cannot possibly have answers to all questions, or have contingencies in place for all possible scenarios. Our priority has been to first help our community access food, nursing care and mental health supports while, at the same time, anticipating future direction from the province on possible extension to school closures. 

We have answered some questions which are set out in our frequently asked questions on our website. We will continue to add to these going forward. In the meantime, some of the items which continue to be top of mind for students and families are listed below.

Continued learning for students: Given school will not resume on April 6 as planned, we have been working on a remote learning strategy to support all students should that be the Ministry of Education’s direction. A remote learning plan will need to be phased as we work to identify local learning needs, develop resources, establish training, and consider logistics. Ensuring equity of access to technology and the Internet, as well as support for our most vulnerable student populations, remains a top priority. You should expect a differentiated approach over the next few weeks while we develop these complex plans. Teachers may reach out to connect with students but there is no expectation for teaching and learning to continue right now. If you want to support from home, you can access the Ministry’s Learn at Home resources or do general literacy and math activities: read a book, talk, play games. This is not the time to put additional stress on yourselves or students.

EQAO/OSSLT: The Ministry of Education has cancelled all EQAO assessments for the remainder of the school year. This affects Grade 3, 6 and 9 reading, writing and math assessments, and the Grade 10 Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT). These assessments do not affect a student’s grades or report card in any way. For students who are graduating in June 2020, the OSSLT graduation requirement will be waived. Students who are not graduating this year (Grade 10s and 11s) will write the OSSLT during the upcoming 2020-2021 school year.

Status of the school year: At this time, there are no plans to extend the school year. Should that change given an extended closure, school boards will receive direction from the Ministry of Education, and we will share this with families as soon as possible. That direction will include the measures that will need to be put in place to accommodate the learning needs of graduating students. The Minister is having ongoing conversations with colleges and universities. 

Supports for vulnerable students: We know who our most vulnerable families are, and we have been working with various community partners to link these families with supports such as food or other essential needs such as nursing care. Families who are in need can call *211 or visit the City of Kingston website for information, click on Emergency Food/Meal Program.

Mental health supports: As conversations around COVID-19 increase, children and youth may experience a range of emotions. Our mental health team has assembled some information and tips to help families and those working with children to support our students. It's important to note that all of us are affected to some degree by the pandemic, and depending on our personal circumstances there may be more or less cause for concern. In any case, remember to pause, and take the time you need and deserve to rest and relax, to be with family and friends, and to do the things that help you to stay well. 

Public health updates: In our region, KFL&A Public Health is the lead agency for credible information about COVID-19. Visit their website for updates. We will continue to share key information to help protect our students, families and staff.

Labour relations: In the midst of COVID-19, a tentative agreement with the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) for both teachers and education workers was reached at the Central Bargaining Table March 20, 2020. ETFO has agreed to suspend all job action while awaiting ratification of the agreement. The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) has suspended all strike sanctions indefinitely.

I know this is a lot of information to take in all at once, and there will be much more in the coming days. Please do your best to ensure that you stay connected. Visit our website for updates and follow LDSB on social media (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram). We will also communicate with families through our Communicate broadcast tool.

This disruption to routines is hard on everyone. We miss seeing our students and staff in person, but we are doing our best to ensure we can continue to support everyone’s success and well-being even if from afar. Watch for more details on how we will do this over the coming days and weeks.

Finally, if you were travelling on March Break, I urge you to observe the 14-day quarantine period, and ask that every one of us observes strict self-isolation and physical distancing to help slow the spread of this virus. We all must help our children and youth understand the importance of physical distancing. It is key to protecting themselves, their family, their teachers, their coaches, their friends and those whom they have never met.

Remember, we are all in this together. Stay healthy and well.

Debra Rantz,
Director of Education

March 13, 2020 Message to Families

Frequently Asked Questions re COVID-19

Talking with children and youth about COVID-19

The Limestone District School Board is situated on traditional territories of the Anishinaabe & Haudenosaunee.