Local school boards are applauding the provincial government’s decision to keep schools closed for the remainder of the academic year.

As a result of COVID-19 and for the health and safety of students and academic staff, the province decided on Tuesday to effectively shut down publicly funded schools until September.

In an interview with MyMuskokaNow, Director of Education at Trillium Lakelands District School Board Larry Hope says while the circumstances are far from ideal – they feel well prepared for the path ahead.

“We’re taking direction obviously from public health and the Ministry of Education and provincial public health and so, we know the plans we’ve been working on are all subject to change and subject to revision but I do believe we are well down the path of a good solid plan.”

Hope adds these are far from normal times and teachers and staff are doing the very best they can with the resources they have available.

“Our staff has been preparing activities and lessons for our students so that they can work on independently, either virtually or on the telephone or through email and so on. The simple reality is, however, is that this is not business as usual, and I give great credit to all the folks for the flexibility and resilience they’ve shown through this.”

For the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board, while the decision is a sad one, it was necessary to ensure the safety of its staff and students.

SMCDSB Board Chair Joe Zerdin says as difficult as this transition to distance learning has been – the board has done it’s best to offer as many virtual resources as possible.

“Our social work and psychology staff recently completed their certification in providing virtual counselling to students who are having difficulty adapting to the distance learning environment. If you need that type of assistance, we recommend contacting the principal at your school.”

Zerdin notes that a lot of work has been done since online learning began in March, and they plan to continue to evolve that platform as they determine a plan for the 2020-2021 school year.

With the continuation of online learning, he asks families to stay patient with them as they grow through these uncertain times.

“It’s always been looked at but to be thrown on your lab instantaneously, of course, there will be bumps in the road but have faith in us. We’re working at our optimum level to produce an education that’s equitable for everyone.”

Hope, meanwhile, notes that in anticipation of this announcement from the province, TLDSB has been working on a plan to ensure the safe and orderly retrieval of students’ personal property and will be communicating with families over the next few days.

He says ensuring kids and youth are still properly educated will be a collaborative effort going forward.

 “I think it’s really important for two-way communication to be ongoing. I think our school board website has some excellent resources. Not just teaching and learning and arts and so on, but also mental health and other supports for those who may be struggling.”

For more information on how TLDSB is addressing not reopening and to access their ‘Learning@Home’ program, you can head to their website.

Those looking for information from the SMCDSB can head here