Some families in Gray-Bruce still don’t have a reliable internet for online school:

With schools reverting to online learning amid an increase in COVID-19 cases, the Bluewater District School Board (BDSB) had to quickly navigate the return despite technology equipment shortages and connectivity issues Internet in rural areas.

“We continue to have pockets of families in our area without adequate internet,” said Jamie Pettit, communications manager for BDSB. “Also, we don’t have a device to provide for every student, which means that many families with more than one child have to share a device.”

“However, we are working closely with our families to distribute all school devices in the most equitable manner possible.”

The school board oversees 43 schools in Bruce and Gray counties, spread over an area of ​​8,673 square kilometers that includes rural pockets with poor internet connectivity.

The return to e-learning was brought about by a sudden change of course on the part of the provincial government.

On December 30, the provincial government announced that schools would resume in-person learning on Wednesday, January 5, allowing a two-day buffer to deliver improved public health supplies, including additional HEPA air filters, N95 masks for staff and masks for students.

On January 3, however, the province reversed its previous order and brought schools back to online learning until January 17, giving schools less than two days to prepare for the change.

“Our staff have become experts at adapting quickly during the pandemic and have been able to prepare for this latest shift to distance learning. We have always been prepared for this possibility ”,

According to Petit.

“We have a sufficient number of HEPA filters with 32 additional units expected to arrive from mid-January to the end of January,” Pettit said. “Rapid antigen tests were provided to our unvaccinated staff, and all students received five tests each before the holidays. ”

“We are expecting non-equipped N95 masks for staff, as well as student masks. ”

While Pettit views face-to-face learning as the best environment for students, he said the school board anticipated a number of issues due to the rapid surge in COVID-19 infections in recent weeks.

“While we know that in-person learning is best for students, the potential impact on staff resulting from an increase in COVID-19 cases would have made it very difficult to keep some schools open,” a- he declared. “We would also have anticipated high student absences due to isolation requirements.”

Pettit said in-person learning during the current wave of infections could exacerbate staff issues, which existed in Ontario before the pandemic, but which have been further affected by the spread of COVID-19.

“Like the current shortage of qualified teachers in Ontario, we are experiencing a staff shortage on our board,” he said. “The number of cases has increased significantly this fall compared to fall 2020. School cases in our area tend to follow the trends in the community, and this was evident before Christmas.

“However, we have had very little transmission of COVID-19 in our schools,” he added.

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