Thunder Bay

Extended school closures bittersweet for students, staff says head of Thunder Bay Catholic board

The director of education with Thunder Bay’s Catholic school board says the province’s recent decision to keep schools closed until the fall due to COVID-19 wasn’t unexpected.

Changes expected for next school year, says Pino Tassone, director of education

Pino Tassone, the director of education with Thunder Bay’s Catholic school board says the province’s recent decision to keep schools closed until the fall due to COVID-19 wasn’t unexpected, and that classes may look very different in the fall. (CBC)

The director of education with Thunder Bay's Catholic school board says the province's recent decision to keep schools closed until the fall due to COVID-19 wasn't unexpected.

"I anticipated that they would extend the school closure … for the health and safety of students," said Pino Tassone of the Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board (TBCDSB).

"But at the same time, it was a little disappointing, because it would have been really nice to have the kids and teachers go back and put closure to the school year," he said. "Students could say goodbye to their teachers, and their classmates."

"Especially for the graduating kids, they could say goodbye to their classmates that they've been around for almost 14 years, and just put an end to their high school career."

Tassone said virtual learning will continue over the coming weeks, and  the board is planning virtual "year-end activities" for all students in all grades.

"We're working with our principals as we speak on having year-end activities just to close off the school year, where we could do some virtual pieces, and some videoconferencing," he said.

As for the next school year, Tassone said the board is working on its own plan to re-open schools, based on what other boards in Ontario and elsewhere are doing, with the provincial government expected to announce its plan for the next school year in June.

"It'll probably look different," he said. "We may have to look at [personal protective equipment] such as masks, rubber gloves, and hand sanitizer, wall-mounting them all around the school."

"There will have to be rules, most likely around hand sanitizing and social distancing," Tassone said. "And we anticipate if things do look differently, that the classes will most likely be smaller, and we'll probably have to do alternate days, like some boards are doing."