Information on Remote Return to School

Information on Remote Return to School
Posted on 01/01/2021

Dear Families,

Happy New Year! First, I would like to thank you for your continued support and understanding as we navigate this unique school year. I do hope that you had an opportunity over the holidays to rest and recharge with your families. I am writing to provide an update on the government’s announcement to temporarily move all students to remote learning upon returning from the December break.

On Monday, December 21, 2020, the provincial government announced that all in-person elementary schools (Kindergarten to Grade 8) will be closed to students January 4 to 8, 2021 during which time elementary students will learn remotely. Elementary students may return to in-person learning on Monday, January 11, 2021. For secondary students (Grades 9 to 12), all in-person secondary school classes will be conducted remotely from January 4 to 22, 2021 with secondary students returning to in-person learning on Monday, January 25, 2021. These dates may change depending on provincial and/or community health circumstances. There is no change for elementary or secondary students enrolled in the LDSB Virtual School.

Child-care centres in schools will remain open, however, before and after school programs in schools will be closed from January 4 to 8, 2021 when elementary students are learning remotely.

We recognize this interruption to in-person learning and routines is a challenge for everyone, however, the Ministry of Education is taking these measures in accordance with the province-wide lockdown to help limit the spread of COVID-19.  We also recognize that this shutdown may have a detrimental impact on some families that we serve, and our goal is to support all students through what may be an unsettling time. Most board staff, including school administrators and educators, began the annual two-week, December break before the government announcement. Schools will be holding virtual staff meetings the morning of Monday, January 4, 2021 to finalize details for the coming weeks. Families and students should hear from classroom educators later on Monday, with more school and class-specific information about remote learning. For in-person classes making the transition to remote learning, there will be more scheduled (asynchronous) learning at the start of the week to allow for necessary device allocation, and to allow for educator and school contact with families.  Live (synchronous) learning will increase over the course of the week. We appreciate your patience as we get everyone up and running. 

Secondary Octomester

The pivot to remote learning for in-person secondary students is made more challenging given the octomester system in most schools, and four-period timetable at Granite Ridge and North Addington Education Centres. Teachers will work with students to ensure flexibility during virtual learning in January as we wrap up Semester 1.  Changes will also be made to the assessments/final exam/culminating activities for students to accommodate the remote pivot for in-person learners. For more ‘hands-on’ courses, teachers will do their best to support continued learning of the curriculum expectations. Schools and educators will be in touch with more specific information. 

Supports for Students with Special Education Needs

The board has worked diligently to ensure plans are in place to support students with special education needs through the implementation of Individualized Education Plans, or IEPs, and through the capacity of classroom teachers, student support teachers, learning program support teachers, educational assistants and a wide range of other board professionals. Supports that were available to students during in-person learning will continue to be available to students learning remotely as appropriate.

While remote learning will be the norm for the majority of students with special education needs, due to the complexities of planning for students with special education needs, and that elementary students are currently scheduled to return to in-person learning on Monday, January 11, the board will use a phased approach to offer the option of face-to-face learning for those students who are in full-time, self-contained classrooms, and those accessing School to Community services who cannot benefit from remote instruction.  

  • Phase One for Students with Special Education Needs:

Option of face-to-face learning for secondary school students accessing School to Community Programming will begin no earlier than Thursday January 7, 2021.  Your student’s School to Community teacher will contact families on the afternoon of Monday, January 4 to determine your interest.

Please note: All elementary students with special education needs will be accommodated with remote learning supports from January 4 to 8, 2021.

  • Phase Two for Students with Special Education Needs:

Option of face-to-face learning for elementary school students accessing the District Autism Centres, the District Behaviour Centres, and  School to Community Programming will begin no earlier than Monday, January 11, 2021.  Your student’s special education program teacher will contact families on the afternoon of Monday, January 4 to determine your interest.

Option of face-to-face learning for secondary school students accessing the Transitions Behaviour Program and LINKS Program will begin no earlier than Monday, January 11, 2021.  Your student’s special education program teacher will contact families on the afternoon of Monday, January 4 to determine your interest.

Over the next week, we will be working closely with our partners in Nexus, SOAR, and the ABC program to determine whether face-to-face learning is an option for students who access those programs. More information will be shared as it becomes available.

Please note:  Because elementary students are set to return to in-person learning on Monday, January 11, this plan will only be actioned if the date to return is extended.

Mental Health Supports

We know that this school year has brought additional challenges and stress because of COVID-19, and this pivot to remote learning for everyone is no different. It is important to acknowledge that returning to school remotely in the new year is yet another challenge. If your student(s) are feeling fearful or overwhelmed, please reach out. Please consult our website for a list of supports available to students and families, or contact school staff directly for assistance. Secondary students can also use our new School-Based Mental Health and Well-being Supports link on each secondary school home page to access support.

Device Allocation

Schools will be in touch with families who require a device, or access to the Internet, to support their student’s remote learning beginning Monday, January 4, 2021. Most schools are already aware of which families will need support which will help expedite the process. We appreciate your patience as we provide devices while adhering to all COVID-19 protocols to ensure student and staff safety.

Provincial Learning Resources 

The Ministry of Education recently announced the launch of two new portals, TVO Learn and TFO IDÉLLO, apprendre à la maison, which also provide supports for students learning remotely by accessing additional educational resources developed by Ontario certified teachers. 

In addition, secondary students can continue to access TVO’s Independent Learning Centre (ILC) Open House and Portes ouvertes pour les cours TVO ILC in French-language, which provide access to 144 Grade 9 to 12 courses. These ILC resources are designed to provide flexible learning opportunities to help students keep up with their learning or deepen their understanding of a specific subject.

Government Support for Learners Funding

The Government of Ontario is providing one-time funding for parents to help offset costs during the 2020-2021 school year. Eligible parents or guardians will receive a one-time payment of:

  • $200 for each student up to age 12
  • $250 for each student or youth up to age 21 with special needs
  • NEW $200 for student age 13 to Grade 12 including students who are in secondary school that are over age 18

Applications open on Monday, January 11, 2021. The deadline to apply is February 8, 2021. Learn more on the government’s Support for Learners webpage.

This is certainly not how we planned to begin 2021 but please know that Limestone staff remain committed to supporting students and families through these changes. Our focus, as always, is on supporting student safety and well-being. Please continue to follow the direction and recommendations of the  Government of Ontario and KFL&A Public Health to maximize personal and community health. 

Again, thank you for your continued patience and understanding during this unusual time.

Krishna Burra,
Director of Education