Students in Waterloo region prepare to learn from home starting Monday

Waterloo region's elementary and secondary school students will return to learning on Monday using online portals to access homework. Local school boards say they know it may not be easy and they will work with families.

Parents have raised concerns about access to technology, special education and other supports

Students in Waterloo region will begin learning from home on Monday. The school boards have all set up online learning portals to help students connect with their teachers and the school work they need to do. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

School's back in starting Monday — sort of.

Students at public, Catholic and French-language schools will start learning from home on Monday. Local school boards have set up access to online learning resources as schools will be closed until at least May 4. The provincial government made the move as a way to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The Ontario education ministry has told boards to help support students and families as they tackle learning at home, John Bryant, director of education for the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB), said in a release.

"Our teachers and our staff are committed to ensuring that every child has the necessary tools for this program to succeed, and knows how to stay safe, connected, active and well. This is the lesson plan that educators will be delivering starting on Monday," Bryant said.

WRDSB has 64,000 students it will be helping do schoolwork at home.

The board says it knows it's a stressful time for students and families and recommended people reach out to mental health supports, including Kids Help Phone, if they are feeling mentally distressed and need help.

1 hour of work a day for younger students

The Waterloo Catholic District School Board has laid out on its website just how much work students will be expected to do through the Learn@Home website.

The board says this will be the expected workload:

  • Kindergarten to Grade 3 can expect five hours of work per week with a focus on literacy and math.
  • Grades 4 to 6 can expect five hours of work per week with a focus on literacy, math, science and social studies.
  • Grades 7 and 8 can expect 10 hours of work per week with a focus on math, literacy, science and social studies.
  • Grades 9 to 12 can expect three hours of work per course each week for semestered students, 1.5 hours per course per week for non-semestered students.

The board noted these are the minimum expectations laid out by the education ministry.

Concerns about technology, supports

It won't be easy, the Catholic board noted on its website.

"We understand that our families and students may have different access to technology and different learning needs," the board said. "Feedback from families raised concerns about access to technology and wi-fi, how special education and other supports will be provided, and what will happen with marks and graduation. We are working to address these concerns and we are providing further clarification as we have it."

In a letter to parents and guardians, André Blais, the director of education for Conseil scolaire catholique MonAvenir, said they will try to keep things as normal as possible for its 17,500 students while they learn from home and as 4,000 staff members as they get used to teaching and working from home, too.

"Like you, our teachers are also in administrative segregation and many of them have families to support," Blais wrote.

"We thank you for your understanding and collective respect in light of the exceptional situation we are currently experiencing. That being said, our hope is that your child will truly feel that they are part of a school community, that they are loved and appreciated and that they can continue to learn with their peers."


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