It's official: K-12 schools to stay closed for rest of school year
Department of Education working on plan for September
Schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year for K-12 students in Newfoundland and Labrador, the education minister confirmed Friday.
In a statement, Brian Warr said that while in-school instruction has been cancelled for the remaining six weeks of the year, parents and students are encouraged to keep learning at home under the guidance of teachers.
A plan is in the works for September, Warr said, which will include various options, depending on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic at that point in time.
"The pandemic has created a situation that none of us would ever have anticipated and jurisdictions all over the world are adapting. I would like to thank teachers, the districts and all of our partners in education for their efforts over the past weeks," Warr said.
"We all remain focused on creating opportunities for continued learning and helping our students during this very unusual time. Meanwhile, we are looking ahead, working with the school districts and public health on a comprehensive plan for education for September."
Partial opening, school hours adjusted are options: Ball
When asked about the issue at Friday's daily COVID-19 briefing, Premier Dwight Ball said there were a number of possible options on what the next school year could look like.
"For instance, schools could be partially opened up, or the length of the school day, if it's completely online.… All of this will be determined in conjunction with public health officials," he said.
"We really can't forecast where this virus is going to be, so … the school board must be ready to adjust in whatever the reality is in September."
The new plan for the fall will include appropriate physical distancing measures, disinfecting requirements, and provisions for busing and lunches, among other things, according to the provincial government.
Ball said there would be professional development for teachers regarding online training for distance learning, as well as ensuring students have access to those programs at home.
But it will be closer to September until it's known how much of those new initiatives will need to be implemented.
Friday's confirmation that K-12 schools will stay closed does not come as a surprise, as Ball had all but confirmed it several times over the last couple of weeks that the province's focus was turning to the next school year.
No one is quite sure what that will look like, including Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province's chief medical officer of health.
"We'd have to look at not just our epidemiology here, but epidemiology elsewhere, what the situation is like elsewhere in the world," she said at Friday's daily briefing on COVID-19.
"We'll make our recommendations on children going back to school at that time."
When pressed by reporters about what the government would say to parents concerned with balancing work with children at home, Ball said the situation is no different from what is already happening in the province.
He said it's important to put in place plans and supports for those families, but didn't specifically detail what they were.
In the meantime, students can continue to work online and improve their grades before report cards are issued with final marks in the week of June 22.
The Newfoundland and Labrador English School District said it has already distributed 2,500 laptops and iPads and has 1,500 more that are currently being sent out to students.
The district has also arranged access to the internet for about 270 students who didn't have prior access at home.
With files from Lukas Wall and Andrew Hawthorn