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Schools to remain closed in New Brunswick, exams cancelled in N.L.

FREDERICTON — Learning plans have been adjusted for Atlantic Canadian public school students who will not be returning to class for months, if at all this school year.

FREDERICTON — Learning plans have been adjusted for Atlantic Canadian public school students who will not be returning to class for months, if at all this school year.
New Brunswick's education minister said Thursday that barring drastic improvement in the situation, schools in the province will remain closed for the rest of the school year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dominic Cardy said the immediate concern remains public health and safety, but his department is committed to helping students continue their education while schools are closed.

"To that end we have developed a plan to provide home-learning options to students here in New Brunswick," Cardy said. 

He said students will be asked to spend from one to two-and-a-half hours a day on home learning, depending on their grade level. The school year will not be extended.

"Anglophone and francophone sectors have developed their own delivery plan and supporting materials that reflect their unique approaches," he said.

Information on home learning will be posted on a new family resources website, and schools will be in contact with parents in the coming days.

"Parents will have a key responsibility to encourage students to complete the provided material and continue learning, but it is important for families to understand we are not asking them to recreate a classroom in their home or to take on the full role of a teacher," Cardy said. 

Students are also encouraged to read for a minimum of 30 minutes and engage in 30 minutes of physical activity every day.

Cardy said all students who were on track in January to continue to the next grade level or graduate will do so. He said decisions on graduation ceremonies will be made in the coming weeks.

"We will be working with post-secondary institutions to ensure this crisis does not prevent students from being eligible for admission to post-secondary studies in the upcoming school year, assuming things have returned to normal by that point," he said.

Cardy said schools around the world have closed and it is a reality that will require everyone to work together to address.

Earlier this week, Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King announced plans to provide home-based learning for students during the closure of Island schools as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

All schools across the Island will remain closed for in-person classes until, at minimum, May 11.

Education Minister Brad Trivers said, starting April 6, teachers will begin providing a variety of online and printed home learning materials to allow for learning, regardless of access to the internet.

"Regardless of your access to the internet you can continue learning. Most of these will require nothing more than a paper and a pencil at the kitchen table," Trivers said.

The home learning activities range from 30 minutes per day for kindergarten students to 90 minutes for students in intermediate schools. High school students will get materials for up to two hours per course, per week.

Both King and Trivers assured Grade 12 students they will have a graduation and a prom, but at a later date.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, students in English and French school districts were informed Thursday that all public exams are cancelled.

Minister of Education Brian Warr said if school resumes at some point, the remaining time will go towards instruction — not exams.

A final grade reflecting work up until March 13, the last day of classes before schools were closed due to the pandemic, will be communicated by April 22.

Warr said online learning opportunities will be made available and students are "encouraged" to engage with teachers and keep up with their curriculum.

"The cancellation of exams does not mean leaning is ending or the school year is over," Warr said, pointing to digital options like Google Classroom and a mathematics YouTube channel prepared by the English School district.

High school students will be eligible to graduate with their final grades and Warr said options are being prepared for students who have failed a course or are in danger of failing.

He said hardware and connectivity solutions are also in the works for students who do not have access to internet or computers home.

"We will do whatever it takes to make sure each child is given the opportunity to learn," he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 2, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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