When the provincial government announced a ministerial order to close all publicly-funded schools on the late afternoon of March 12, 2020 due to concerns surrounding the spread of COVID-19, senior executive staff at the TDSB immediately set to work planning for an extended closure of all of our buildings. First, they identified the concerns that required immediate attention.
Three priorities were established: the need to remotely contact 220,000 TDSB students (or their families) despite the lack of email addresses for 22,500 families; the need to formulate guiding principles for remote learning that would be accessible to all despite the lack of many families’ access to technology and the internet; and, finally, the need to consider how the TDSB might be able to help the city and province fight COVID-19.
Over the last couple of weeks, Leaside schools have played important roles in helping our board achieve some of these priorities and overcome many of these challenges in a variety of ways.
For example, as emergency remote learning was being established, it became clear that some educators were more experienced and comfortable than others with online teaching. Teachers from Northlea Elementary and Middle School took on leadership roles in the larger teaching community, running webinars on how to use the Brightspace, Google Classroom and Knowledgehook platforms, not only for their Northlea colleagues but for colleagues in other schools as well.
In addition, Leaside schools, such as Rolph, Bessborough, and Northlea loaned hundreds of iPads and Chromebooks to our IT department to be temporarily distributed to TDSB families, both within our community and across the city.
Leaside schools were also significant contributors to the drive for PPE equipment to keep frontline workers safe. Northlea and Bessborough together donated 100 bottles of hand sanitizer; Leaside High School and Northlea donated many boxes of latex gloves; and Northlea donated more than 60 pairs of goggles from the school’s science lab. And, last but not least, Bessborough’s 3D printer (from the school’s STEM lab) has been flagged as available should it be needed for production of PPE equipment.
With emergency remote learning now in full swing, our staff are focused on meeting the challenges of this new environment, continually improving their approaches to best serve all students. As always, I am so proud of how our local TDSB schools have risen to the challenges of this pandemic, helping in so many different ways to support students, staff, and our frontline workers.