THUNDER BAY – Both school boards in Thunder Bay are optimistic about the prospect of having students return to the classrooms on Jan. 3 but say they are ready for the possibility of a return to online learning should the Ontario government decide it is safer to do so.
“I’m an optimist. I’m hopeful that we will be back face to face. I think the government and the ministry do not have an appetite to go to virtual. If it was a local decision, I think we’re doing very well locally so we hope that we will be back,” said Pino Tassone, director of education of the Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board.
“I’m a strong believer that our schools are the safest places for our students and our staff to be. We are very firm with our health and safety measures in terms of PPE and screening and everything that we need to do within our schools to keep our kids safe.”
Both school boards say they are ready to roll out virtual learning should Ontario decide that schools need to close but they hope that it doesn’t need to come to that because most students need the classroom environment to excel in their studies.
“We’ve said time and time again. There is no substitute for being in a classroom with their peers and support staff. We will try to ensure that the learning situation maximizes their opportunities,” said Ian MacRae, director of education, of the Lakehead District School Board.
“And for us to have to return to a virtual situation, I think, would be particularly devastating at this point.”
While many schools in Southern Ontario pre-emptively sent home devices and workbooks on the off chance that they will be required in the New Year but both the public and catholic school boards held off on the pre-emptive measure saying that they do have a plan in place and will be able to roll out virtual learning efficiently should the situation change.
Both school boards hope to hear back from the government a week or so prior to Jan. 3, and they wish their students a relaxing and happy holiday and hopefully, they will be able to see them in the New Year.