Transcript: Extending School Closures in Ontario | Apr 01, 2020

Steve sits in a room with white walls, a low slanted ceiling and several framed pictures on the walls including one of George Drew and one of Walter Kronkite. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a white shirt and a checked red tie.

A caption on screen reads "Will COVID-19 end globalization? @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says ONTARIO WAS THE FIRST PROVINCE TO CLOSE ITS SCHOOLS BECAUSE OF THE COVID-19 CRISIS. AND NOW THAT CLOSURE HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO MAY 4 FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS, TO APRIL 13 FOR PRIVATE SCHOOLS AND CHILD CARE CENTRES. AND EVEN THOSE TIMELINES ARE UNLIKELY TO BE FINAL. THAT'S PROMPTED A MAJOR ONLINE INITIATIVE FOR STUDENTS. HERE TO TELL US MORE, STEPHEN LECCE, THE MINISTER OF EDUCATION AND THE PC MEMBER FOR KING-VAUGHAN, AND HE JOINS US NOW VIA SKYPE FROM HIS OFFICE AT QUEEN'S PARK...

Lecce is in his thirties, with short brown hair and a stubble. He's wearing a white shirt.

Steve continues MINISTER, IT'S GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN. HOW ARE YOU MANAGING THROUGH ALL THIS?

Lecce says I'M DOING WELL. STAYING SAFE AND OBVIOUSLY JUST TRY TO STAY OPTIMISTIC. I KNOW TOUGH TIMES FOR MANY CANADIANS, BUT I KNOW WE'LL GET THROUGH THIS.

Steve says OKAY, LET'S JUST START BY SEEING IF WE CAN GET A BETTER UNDERSTANDING FOR WHY YOU AND THE GOVERNMENT MADE THE DECISION THAT YOU DID. YOU KNOW THAT, OF COURSE, ALBERTA AND MANITOBA HAVE DECIDED TO BASICALLY CLOSE THE SCHOOL SYSTEM UNTIL THE END OF THE REGULARLY PLANNED SCHOOL YEAR. YOU GUYS HAVE STILL OPTED FOR JUST ANOTHER MONTH. HOW COME?

The caption changes to "Stephen Lecce. Minister of Education. PC MPP, King-Vaughan."

Lecce says WELL, EACH PROVINCE IS DIFFERENT BASED ON THE SITUATION ON THE GROUND WITH COVID-19. AS YOU KNOW, QUEBEC, THEY'VE EXTENDED 'TIL THE BEGINNING OF MAY AS WELL AS ONTARIO. WE'RE TAKING AN APPROACH THAT'S ITERATIVE. WAVE MADE THIS DECISION FOLLOWING THE DEVICE OF THE MEDICAL OFFICER OF HEALTH OF ONTARIO AND THE COVID-19 COMMAND TABLE. OUR RATIONALE IS TWOFOLD. ONE IS WE HAVE THE DUTY TO MAINTAIN THE SAFETY OF ALL STUDENTS AND STAFF. WE'RE DOING THAT. THAT'S WHY WE TOOK DECISIVE ACTION TO CLOSE SCHOOLS, THE FIRST IN CANADA AND ONE OF THE FIRST LITERALLY IN THE INDUSTRIALIZED WORLD WHICH WE BELIEVE IS HELPING TO MITIGATE COMMUNITY SPREAD AND WILL SAVE LIVES AS A CONSEQUENCE. BUT THE RATIONALE FOR EXTENDING BY AN ADDITIONAL MONTH FOR PUBLICLY FUNDED SCHOOLS IS WE WANT TO BE ITERATIVE IN HOPES THAT WE CAN TRY TO PROTECT SOME OF THE SCHOOL YEAR FOR IN-SCHOOL INSTRUCTION, IF THAT IS POSSIBLE, IF IT IS SAFE. IF IT'S NOT...

Steve says LET ME FOLLOW UP ON THAT ASPECT. IF THE MEDICAL OFFICER OF HEALTH GIVE YOU THE HIGH SIGN, MEANING IT'S OKAY TO PUT KIDS BACK IN SCHOOL, BUT THAT YOU COULDN'T DO IT UNTIL JULY, LET'S SAY, WOULD YOU EXTEND THE IN-CLASS SCHOOL YEAR STARTING AGAIN IN JULY?

Lecce says YEAH, WE HAVE NOT MADE THAT DETERMINATION. I'M NOT SURE AT THIS POINT WE HAVE TO MAKE THAT DECISION TODAY. I THINK WHAT I'VE INDICATED IS THAT IN ORDER TO MITIGATE POTENTIALLY SUMMER SCHOOL OR AN EXTENSION OF THE SCHOOL YEAR, LET'S BUILD A PLATFORM AND A MECHANISM THAT GIVES STUDENTS ACCESS TO THE CURRICULUM AND TO THEIR TEACHER IN ADDITION TO ACCUMULATING MARKS AND CREDITS AND ULTIMATELY GRADUATING AND COMPLETING THE YEAR. IN THE ABSENCE OF THIS PLAN THAT WE UNVEILED PART OF THE SECOND PHASE OF OUR LEARNING FROM HOME INITIATIVE, AND I THINK THE RECOMMENDATION WOULD BE SOUND. TODAY WE DON'T NEED TO DO THAT. OBVIOUSLY THE SITUATION IS FLUID, STEVE, AND WE'LL MAKE DECISIONS IN REAL TIME BASED ON ADVICE OF DR. WILLIAMS. AS OF NOW, WE COULD PRESERVE THE YEAR, PRESERVE LEARNING AND HELP KIDS GRADUATE, ESPECIALLY IN THE SENIOR YEARS, IN HIGH SCHOOL.

Steve says OKAY, TO THAT END, LET ME JUST TAKE 30 SECONDS HERE AND REMIND EVERYBODY WHAT YOU ANNOUNCED YESTERDAY, WHICH IS ESSENTIALLY THE ON-LINE LEARNING COMPONENT THAT STUDENTS WILL NOW BE EXPECTED TO COMPLETE....

A slate appears on screen, with the title "Expected virtual learning hours for students. Per student."

Steve reads data from the slate and says
KINDERGARTENERS, FOR EXAMPLE, KINDERGARTEN TO GRADE 3, THEY'RE GOING TO BE REQUIRED TO COMPLETE 5 HOURS PER WORK PER STUDENT PER WEEK PRIMARILY FOCUSING ON LITERACY AND MATH. IN GRADES 4 TO 6, FIVE HOURS OF WORK EACH WEEK, FOCUSING ON LITERACY, MATH, SCIENCE AND SOCIAL STUDIES. PARENTS, IF YOUR KIDS ARE IN GRADE 7 AND 8, THEY ARE EXPECTED TO DO 10 HOURS OF WORK PER WEEK FOCUSING ON MATH, LITERACY, SCIENCE AND SOCIAL STUDIES. AND FINALLY, IF YOUR KIDS ARE IN GRADES 9 TO 12, IF THEY ARE SEMESTERED STUDENTS, THEY ARE GOING TO BE EXPECTED TO DO THREE HOURS OF WORK PER COURSE PER WEEK, AND IF NON-SEMESTERED, THEY ARE GOING TO BE TOLD TO DO 1.5 HOURS PER COURSE PER WEEK FOCUSING ON COMPLETING CREDITS AND GRADUATIONS. MY QUESTION FOR YOU IS WHAT EXPECTATIONS DO YOU GENUINELY HAVE THAT STUDENTS ARE GONNA DO THIS?

The caption changes to "Stephen Lecce, @Sflecce."

Lecce says YEAH, I THINK, STEVE, IT'S A MISSION BY EVERYONE INVOLVED AND EVERYONE WHO'S AN OBSERVER OF WHAT'S HAPPENING AROUND US, IN CIVIL SOCIETY, THE WORLD. THIS IS A VERY CHALLENGING TIME, AND THIS PLAN IS THE BEST PLAN PUT FORWARD IN ORDER TO MITIGATE A PHENOMENAL LEARNING LOSS, AND SO WE RECOGNIZE THE DIFFICULTY OF FAMILIES AND ON PARENTS ESPECIALLY, ON THE KIDS THEMSELVES, TO HAVE THE FOCUS AND DISCIPLINE ENABLED TO GET THROUGH THE LEARNING MATERIAL, AND ON THE TEACHER, WHO IS TRYING TO GIVE THIS KNOWLEDGE WITH SOME DIFFICULTY AND SOME GEOGRAPHIC CHALLENGE AND SEPARATION AS WELL. SO I HEAR IT. I UNDERSTAND IT. WE'RE THE FIRST TO RECOGNIZE THAT THIS IS AN IMPERFECT SOLUTION TO THIS GLOBAL PANDEMIC. BUT WE DO BELIEVE THAT THE NEXT FEW WEEKS AND MONTHS OUGHT TO BE A TIME OF LEARNING, AND I DO BELIEVE THAT TEACHERS WILL APPROPRIATE SOME OF THAT RESPONSIBILITY AWAY FROM THE PARENTS, TRY TO REALLY STEP UP AND DO THEIR PART. I KNOW MANY EDUCATORS IN THIS PROVINCE ARE ALREADY REACHING OUT TO STUDENTS, ARE PROVIDING SUPPORT AND MENTORSHIP. SO WE THINK THIS IS MERITED. WE THINK THE STUDENTS WILL, WITH SOME GUIDANCE FROM THEIR PARENTS AND PERHAPS A BIT OF HEALTHY ENCOURAGEMENT, THEY WILL UNDERSTAND THAT, YOU KNOW, THIS COULD BE A POSITIVE EXPERIENCE OF LEARNING IN A SAFE ENVIRONMENT, AND THAT'S ULTIMATELY THE DUAL PRIORITIES WE ARE COMMUNICATING TODAY, SAFETY FIRST WITH THE FOCUS ON THE CONTINUUM OF LEARNING, AND I THINK STUDENTS WHO FINISHED THREE FOURTHS OF THE YEAR IN CLASS DESERVE TO FINISH THEIR YEAR. THERE'S A FEW WEEKS OR MONTHS LEFT. I THINK THERE'S AN OPPORTUNITY TO USE CURRICULUM LED BY TEACHERS. RESTORING IT AND RESTORING ALL OF THE FRONT-LINE WORKERS WITHIN OUR SECTORS, PARTICULARLY OUR MENTAL HEALTH WORKERS AND THE FULL COMPLEMENT OF OUR HUMAN RESOURCES, THESE PEOPLE WHO WORK HARD AND I THINK HAVE A REAL INTEREST IN HELPING THESE KIDS, PARTICULARLY NOW MORE THAN EVER, IS GOING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE. SO WE'RE UNLOCKING ALL THOSE PEOPLE TO DO THEIR IMPORTANT WORK, AND I OBVIOUSLY AM GRATEFUL FOR THE SUPPORT AND PARTNERSHIP OF BOARDS, OF UNION FEDERATIONS, OF THE MEMBERS AND, OF COURSE, OF COMMUNITIES AND FAMILIES AT HOME. WE ALL HAVE A ROLE TO PLAY TODAY.

Steve says NO ARGUMENT THAT WE CAN'T JUST WASTE THE NEXT COUPLE OF MONTHS. IT WOULD BE GREAT IF STUDENTS COULD LEARN SOMETHING, BUT YOU KNOW... AND I'M SURE THIS IS NOT GOING TO BE A NEWS FLASH TO YOU, BUT I AM WONDERING HOW A KINDERGARTEN TEACHER IS GOING TO KEEP THE ATTENTION OF STUDENTS WHO ARE LITTLE AND MAYBE 25 OR 30 OF THEM ALL AT ONCE ON-LINE. HOW'S THAT GOING TO WORK EXACTLY?

Lecce says YEAH, EDUCATORS FIRST OFF DEMONSTRATE PROFESSIONAL DISCRETION AND JUDGMENT EVERY DAY ABOUT BEST UTILIZED PRACTICES TO KEEP STUDENTS ENGAGED. WE RECOGNIZE, YOU KNOW, QUITE SOME CHALLENGE. BUT WE WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT THE STUDENTS ARE ABLE TO LEARN THROUGH SOME FORM OF TEACHER-LED INSTRUCTION. WE THINK WITH SOME SUPPORT OF THEIR PARENTS, ESPECIALLY IN THE YOUNGER YEARS, THAT WILL BE POSSIBLE. IT ALSO PERMITS...

Steve says WELL, WHAT IF THEIR PARENTS HAVE TO WORK? IF PARENTS ARE WORKING FROM THEIR HOMES, THEY MAY NOT BE AVAILABLE TO HELP A TEACHER DO WHAT NEEDS DOING. WHAT THEN?

Lecce says YEAH, THAT'S ABSOLUTELY THE CASE. I MEAN, CERTAINLY A COMPONENT OF THE POPULATION IS STILL IN THE LABOUR MARKET, SO I MEAN, FLEXIBILITY IS PART OF THIS PROGRAM. SO WE'RE ENCOURAGING SCHOOL BOARDS, THE DIRECTION IS JUST TO BE AS REASONABLE AND FLEXIBLE AS POSSIBLE, RECOGNIZING THE IMPACT OF COVID ON PEOPLE, THEIR LIVES, THEIR HEALTH, THEIR ECONOMIC CIRCUMSTANCES, AND ON THEIR OBLIGATIONS, ESPECIALLY IF THEY ARE ESSENTIAL WORKERS, OR WORKING IN THE ESSENTIAL INDUSTRY. SO I ABSOLUTELY UNDERSTAND YOUR POINT. FLEXIBILITY IS PART OF THIS, MAKING SURE THAT WE CAN WORK AROUND THE AVAILABILITY OF SOME OF THOSE FRONT LINE PEOPLE. THE FACT IS, AS I SAY, THERE WILL BE CHALLENGES. BUT I TRUST EDUCATORS TO RISE TO THE CHALLENGE. I TRUST EVERYONE TO DO THEIR PART, TO ENSURE THAT STUDENTS ARE LEARNING, AND THE CURRICULUM, YOU KNOW, REALLY ENSURING THAT WE'RE FOLLOWING THE GUIDELINES OF THE CURRICULUM TO COMPLETE THE COURSE WORK. YOUNG PEOPLE, IT'S OBSERVATION-BASED LEARNING, THERE'S A WAY FOR EDUCATORS TO USE THEIR BEST DISCRETION. I ACTUALLY THINK THAT FOR MANY OF THEM IN THE YOUNGEST YEARS, THEY'LL COME UP WITH SOME INNOVATIVE WAYS TO NOT JUST KEEP THE STUDENTS ATTENTION, BUT ALSO TO KEEP THEM ENGAGED IN SOME FORM OF LEARNING, AND I THINK THAT IS FUNDAMENTAL. THAT'S ULTIMATELY THE OBJECTIVE WE'RE ADVANCING THROUGH THE LEARNING, THE SECOND PHASE OF LEARNING AT HOME. IT'S THE REASON WHY THE PREMIER MADE THE ANNOUNCEMENT HIMSELF. I THINK IT SHOWS A WHOLE-OF-GOVERNMENT PRIVATE ON THE CONTINUITY OF LEARNING AND ON OUR OBLIGATION TO ENSURE THE SAFETY OF EVERY CHILD IN THE PROVINCE, AND WE'LL CONTINUE TO KEEP SCHOOLS CLOSED IF WE HAVE TO BASED ON THE ADVICE OF DR. WILLIAMS. IN THE MEANTIME, IRRESPECTIVE OF THE ADVICE THAT COMES FROM THE COMMAND TABLE, I WANT TO MAKE SURE WE HAVE A BONA FIDE PROGRAM THAT ENRICHES THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE.

Steve says I TOTALLY GET THAT. I TOTALLY GET THAT, BUT I NEED TO ASK YOU ANOTHER FOLLOW-UP QUESTION ABOUT THIS, WHICH IS: TO THE BEST OF MY KNOWLEDGE, THERE'S PROBABLY 100,000 STUDENTS IN THE PROVINCE OF ONTARIO WHO DO NOT HAVE ACCESS AT HOME TO ON-LINE MATERIALS. AND THAT IS... THAT DOESN'T EVEN BEGIN TO TALK ABOUT THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE, FOR EXAMPLE, WHO LIVE IN MORE RURAL PARTS OF THE PROVINCE WHO'VE GOT LOUSY BROADBAND AND, YOU KNOW, ARE JUST NOT GOING TO HAVE THE SAME ACCESS AS PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN THE BIG CITIES TO GOOD HIGH-SPEED INTERNET. WHAT PLANS DOES THE GOVERNMENT HAVE TO DEAL WITH THOSE TWO SITUATIONS?

Lecce says ABSOLUTELY. EQUITY AND UNIVERSALIZING ACCESS TO THE TECHNOLOGY AND THE CURRICULUM, AND TO THE EDUCATOR, IS ABSOLUTELY FUNDAMENTAL. AND SO WHAT WE'RE DOING IS WE'RE WORKING WITH SCHOOL BOARDS ON GETTING LAPTOPS AND COMPUTERS OUT TO PEOPLE WHO NEED IT MOST. AND SO THERE'S ALREADY WORK BEING DONE IN BOARDS ACROSS ONTARIO, TO DO SURVEYS ON WHAT THE NEEDS ARE, AND WE'VE INDICATED TO BOARDS TO ACCELERATE THE PROCUREMENT OF TECHNOLOGY AND SPEND THE BUDGET THAT THEY HAVE IN PART FUNDED BY THE PROVINCE WHEN IT COMES TO TECHNOLOGY. I'M ALSO WORKING DIRECTLY WITH TELECOMMUNICATION COMPANIES, I'VE CALLED THE CEOS OF MANY TELECOMMUNICATION COMPANIES ACROSS THE COUNTRY, TO LOOK FOR A SYNERGY BETWEEN THE PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SECTOR, NON-PROFIT SECTOR WORKING ALL TOGETHER WITH ONE MISSION, WHICH IS TO EXPAND THE REACH OF BROADBAND AND THAT TECHNOLOGY, BECAUSE VIRTUAL LEARNING CAN BE VERY DYNAMIC. THERE ARE SOME SCHOOLS RIGHT NOW, SOME CLASSROOMS TODAY, AS WE SPEAK, THAT ARE ON-LINE IN A VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENT. IT'S DYNAMIC. STUDENTS IN FRONT OF YOU, THE TEACHERS ARE IN FRONT OF YOU, THE COURSES ARE UPLOADED. EVERYTHING IS ON THE CLOUD. IT PROVIDES A VERY INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE FOR THE STUDENTS, AND THEY WANT TO DO THAT. THAT'S THE MINORITY OF CLASSROOMS.

The caption changes to "Connect with us: Twitter: @theagenda; Facebook, agendaconnect@tvo.org, Instagram."

Steve says CAN YOU GET YOUR HANDS ON 100,000 iPADS, THOUGH?

Lecce says WELL, BOARDS ARE GOING TO BE WORKING ON THAT RIGHT NOW. I'VE NOT HEARD THAT NUMBER. I MUST ADMIT I PRESUME IT TO BE... THERE ARE CERTAINLY STUDENTS, A MINORITY OF STUDENTS IN ALL BOARDS THAT WILL NEED SUPPORT, AND WE WILL BE THERE FOR THEM. THE BOARDS HAVE INDICATED THEY ARE WORKING ON THIS. PROCUREMENT IS UNDER WAY FOR THOSE THAT NEED IT. THERE'S ALSO INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR. THE BOTTOM LINE IS TECHNOLOGY IS NOT THE PREREQUISITE TO LEARNING. WHAT I'VE INDICATED IS ONE WAY OR ANOTHER A STUDENT IS GOING TO LEARN. IF IT REQUIRES US TO LITERALLY HAVE SCHOOL BOARD BUS DRIVERS DRIVE AND COURIER THE PRINTED MATERIALS TO A STUDENT IN A RURAL PART OF A PROVINCE WHO DOES NOT HAVE ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY BECAUSE OF THEIR LOCALITY, WE WILL DO THAT. WE WILL DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO ENSURE LEARNING IS ADVANCED TO EVERY CHILD. AND AS I SAY, BROADBAND IS NOT GOING TO BE THE PREREQUISITE TO LEARNING.

Steve says I NOTE THAT IN AN ANNOUNCEMENT THAT YOU MADE SEVERAL DAYS AGO THAT YOU ARE OFFERING SUPPORT, FINANCIAL SUPPORT TO ALL FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN, BUT IN PARTICULAR TO THE FAMILIES WHO HAVE SPECIAL NEEDS KIDS, 250 dollars FOR KIDS UP TO THE AGE OF 21. AND YOU KNOW, I AM TRYING TO IMAGINE HOW A FAMILY WITH, FOR EXAMPLE, AN AUTISTIC CHILD WHO IS FORCED TO BE HOME ALL THE TIME, OR A CHILD WITH, YOU KNOW, SIGNIFICANT LEARNING DISABILITIES, HOW IS THIS ALL GOING TO WORK FOR THEM?

Lecce says YEAH, NO, IT'S AN IMPORTANT QUESTION, AND YOU KNOW, THESE CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL EDUCATION NEEDS, THEY DESERVE OUR SUPPORT AND AN ELEMENT OF COMPASSION RIGHT NOW, AND THEIR PARENTS ARE WORKING SO HARD TO SUPPORT THEM IN THE ABSENCE OF HAVING THEIR EDUCATION ASSISTANTS OR OTHER SUPPORTS, AND THE PHYSICAL SUPPORTS PRESENT WITH THEM DAY TO DAY. SO WE'RE VERY CONCERNED ABOUT THAT. I COMMISSIONED... CONVENED A MEETING, A SPECIAL ADVISORY MEETING OF THE MINISTER'S ADVISORY COUNCIL SPECIAL EDUCATION AND LEADERS ON THE FRONT LINE. THEY GAVE GREAT IDEAS. ONE OF WHICH IS PARENTAL GUIDELINES AND RESOURCES AND HOW TO BEST ENABLE THEM TO EDUCATE A CHILD AND TO SUPPORT A CHILD WHILE AT HOME. WE'RE ALSO UNLOCKING ALL THE HUMAN CAPITAL WITHIN OUR SCHOOL BOARDS. I MEAN, MANY OF THESE CHILDREN WOULD HAVE HAD ACCESS TO AN EA, FOR EXAMPLE, WHILE THEY PHYSICALLY PERHAPS WILL NOT BE ABLE TO BE WITH THE CHILD UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE PANDEMIC, THERE'S OFTEN WAYS FOR TELECOMMUNICATION, VIDEO CONFERENCING. WE HAVE PSYCHOLOGISTS AND PSYCHOTHERAPISTS, SOCIAL WORKERS, ALL OF WHOM CAN BE UNLOCKED, AND WE'RE WORKING RIGHT NOW, AS WE SPEAK, TO GET SPECIAL EDUCATION SUPPORTS, INCLUDING THE KEY PERSONNEL, ON-LINE SO THAT THEY ARE ABLE TO SPEAK TO PARENTS AND STUDENTS TO SUPPORT THEM WHILE IN AN UNCONVENTIONAL WAY, DO EVERYTHING WE CAN, LOOKING AT EVERY RESOURCE AND EVERY PERSON TO STEP UP AND DO THEIR PART TO SUPPORT THESE KIDS.

Steve says NO, I APPRECIATE THAT WE'RE IN EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES HERE, AND NO PREVIOUS MINISTER OF EDUCATION HAS EVER HAD TO DEAL WITH THESE CIRCUMSTANCES. BUT I ALSO CAN IMAGINE THAT, YOU KNOW, THERE ARE INEQUITIES IN THE EDUCATION SYSTEM ACROSS THE PROVINCE TO BEGIN WITH. AND YOU'RE NOW FACED WITH SOLVING THE PROBLEM OF MAKING SURE THAT THE LEARNING GAP BETWEEN THOSE WHO WILL DO JUST FINE WITH THIS NEW ON-LINE SYSTEM THAT YOU'RE GOING TO BRING IN AND OTHERS WHO WILL NOT DO FINE AT ALL, AND FOR WHOM THIS WILL BE JUST A HUGE CHALLENGE TO BE ABLE TO KEEP UP, THAT LEARNING GAP IS GOING TO GET BIGGER, AND I REALLY NEED TO KNOW WHAT YOU PLAN TO DO ABOUT THAT AND HOW CONCERNED YOU ARE ABOUT IT.

Lecce says YEAH, NO, I ACCEPT THAT THERE'S AN INEQUALITY THAT EXISTS INHERENTLY WITHIN SOCIETY, AND OUR AIM IS NOT TO EXACERBATE THAT. OUR AIM IS TO ENSURE THAT EVERY CHILD, IRRESPECTIVE OF THEIR ECONOMIC CIRCUMSTANCE, OR THEIR LOCALITY IN THE PROVINCE, ENGLISH OR FRENCH, CATHOLIC OR PUBLIC, THAT THEY HAVE ACCESS TO EDUCATION. THIS PLAN DOES THAT, FULL STOP, AND IT DOES SO UNDER THE INSTRUCTION OF A TEACHER, A TEACHER-LED EDUCATION. SO I THINK THAT WITH EDUCATORS DOING THEIR JOB AND STEPPING UP, AS MANY OF THEM HAVE ALREADY, DOING AMAZING WORK, THAT THEY WILL FIND, YOU KNOW, PATHWAYS TO ENSURE THAT A CHILD IS CONTINUING TO LEARN. OBVIOUSLY WE ARE LOOKING AT BENCHMARKING OUR SUCCESS OVER THE COMING WEEKS. WE'RE OBVIOUSLY GOING TO BE IMPROVING THIS PLAN AS WE GO FORWARD, TO TWEAK IT. I THINK THE CENTRAL AIM OF THIS PLAN IS TO ENABLE EVERY CHILD TO LEARN, AND WHETHER THOSE KIDS STAY HOME DOING LITERALLY NOTHING AND LEARNING LOSSES IS A PHENOMENON THAT'S REAL. IF YOU DON'T LOSE THE KNOWLEDGE, YOU IN EFFECT LOSE IT, AND SO WE HAVE A DUTY TO KEEP THEM STIMULATED AND FOCUSED ON THE CURRICULUM, AND I KNOW TEACHERS WILL DO AN EXCELLENT JOB OF DEALING WITH THE CHALLENGES ON THE GROUND. THEY DO THIS EVERY DAY, BY THE WAY, IN DIFFERENT FORMATS. MAYBE A SMALLER SCALE THAN EVERYONE, BUT THEY ARE DEALING WITH THESE CHALLENGES DAY IN AND DAY OUT, AND THEY WILL DO WHAT IS RIGHT TO MOVE THAT CHILD FORWARD, KEEP THEM FOCUSED, AND UTILIZE EVERY RESOURCE OF THE COMMUNITY AND MOST IMPORTANTLY OF SCHOOL BOARDS THAT EXIST TODAY TO SUPPORT THESE KIDS.

Steve says LET ME ASK YOU ABOUT ANOTHER BIG CHALLENGE, WHICH IS YOU HAVE OPTED TO ENCOURAGE... NOT ENCOURAGE. I MEAN, THE NEW MANDATE IS THAT TEACHERS ARE GOING TO GIVE A LETTER GRADE TO STUDENTS. THEY ARE GOING TO HAVE REPORT CARDS. IT'S NOT SIMPLY GOING TO BE A PASS-FAIL TYPE OF SITUATION. AND I WONDER HOW TEACHERS ARE REALLY SUPPOSED TO DO THAT ACCURATELY AND FOR THOSE MARKS TO MEAN SOMETHING AND HAVE INTEGRITY IF THERE'S REALLY NO... IF THERE'S NO FACE-TO-FACE CONTACT WITH STUDENTS FOR AS MUCH AS A QUARTER OF THE SCHOOL YEAR. HOW DO YOU SWING THAT?

Lecce says WELL, 60,000 STUDENTS TODAY DON'T HAVE FACE-TO-FACE CONTACT WITH A TEACHER, PER SE, IN ON-LINE COURSES AND THEY ARE EVALUATED, AND THREE QUARTERS OF THE COURSE HAVE BEEN COMPLETED. I THINK IT'S THE DUTY OF THE EDUCATION SYSTEM TO GIVE A MARK TO A CHILD AND TO PERFORM THEIR... TO ASSESS THEIR PERFORMANCE OVER THE PAST MONTHS, AND STILL... OBVIOUSLY TO MAINTAIN THE INTEGRITY OF THE COURSE... OF OUR MARKING SYSTEM, BUT I THINK EVERY EDUCATOR IS UNDERSTANDING OF THE VERY DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCE THAT FAMILIES AND STUDENTS ARE IN. AND SO I BELIEVE THEY WILL BE ABLE TO PROVIDE A CREDIBLE COURSE BASED ON THEIR... THE ABILITY OF THE CHILD TO LEARN IN THIS PERIOD WITH THE SPIRIT OF REASONABLENESS, NO DOUBT. THE BOTTOM LINE IS THE KIDS WILL LEARN OVER THIS PERIOD. THEIR EDUCATOR WILL KEEP THEM FOCUSED ON THE SUBJECT MATTER. WE OBVIOUSLY WILL BE DOING THIS IN PARTNERSHIP, OF COURSE, WITH PARENTS, BUT WE REALLY WANT TO MOVE THAT, ADD THAT SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY BACK TO THE EDUCATOR, REPATRIATE THAT FOCUS TO THE SYSTEM SO THAT PARENTS COULD... YOU KNOW, WHILE THEY WILL BE SUPPORTING THEIR KIDS, I'M SURE, AND ALREADY HAVE, THEY ARE ABLE TO FOCUS ON MAYBE SOME OF THE MORE PRESSING ELEMENTS IN THEIR LIFE, BE IT HEALTH OF A LOVED ONE OR, OF COURSE, THEIR INCOME OR THEIR JOB OR THE ECONOMIC CIRCUMSTANCE OF THEIR HOUSEHOLD, AND THAT'S REALLY WHY WE'VE DESIGNED THE PROGRAM TO HELP THEM OUT AS WELL.

Steve says OKAY. A COUPLE OF MINUTES LEFT HERE, MINISTER, AND I GOT TWO MORE QUESTIONS I WANT TO ASK. IF I CAN JUST GET QUICK ANSWERS TO THESE. YOU HAVE REACHED IN THE MIDST OF EVERYTHING THAT'S GOING ON TENTATIVE AGREEMENTS ON CONTRACTS WITH THE ELEMENTARY TEACHERS, THE CATHOLIC TEACHERS, THE FRENCH TEACHERS, THE SECONDARY TEACHERS ARE STILL OUT THERE WITHOUT AN AGREEMENT. BUT I DO HAVE TO ASK: DO YOU NOT SEE THE IRONY THAT WITHOUT THIS AWFUL PANDEMIC YOU WOULD AT THE MOMENT STILL BE IN THE MIDST OF A TERRIBLE EDUCATION CRISIS, TOUGH NEGOTIATIONS, NASTY RELATIONSHIPS, ET CETERA, ET CETERA? YOU DO SEE THAT, RIGHT?

Lecce says YEAH, YOU KNOW, HONESTLY, WE WERE ABLE TO BUILD SOME MOMENTUM BEFORE THIS BECAME A GLOBAL PANDEMIC AND WE WERE VERY CLOSE TO DEALS THEN. I THINK, LOOK, AT THE END OF THE DAY, WE'RE GOING TO CONTINUE LANDING DEALS. WE'VE JUST COMPLETED ANOTHER ONE WITH THE FRENCH TEACHERS, AND YES WE LOOK FORWARD TO NEGOTIATING SHOULD THE MEDIATOR CALL US BACK TO GET THIS ALL DONE. I THINK THE MEMBERS AS WELL WANT IT DONE, AND I CALLED ALL THE UNION PRESIDENTS PERSONALLY. I'VE SPOKEN TO COME OF THEM AS MANY TIMES AS TWICE THE PAST WEEK. YOU MIGHT FIND THAT CURIOUS OR INTERESTING, BUT THE TRUTH IS WE'RE IN A PANDEMIC. WE HAVE LITERALLY LIVES ARE AT STAKE, AND IT REQUIRES ALL OF US TO PUT THINGS ASIDE AND WORK TOGETHER, COLLABORATE AND DO WHAT'S RIGHT FOR THE SAFETY OF OUR KIDS AND OF COURSE OUR STAFF. AND I'M DOING THAT, THEY'RE DOING THAT, AND I'M GRATEFUL FOR THE MUTUAL PARTNERSHIP WE'RE HAVING TO PUT PEOPLE FIRST, PUT KIDS FIRST AND HEALTH FIRST, AND I THINK THAT'S GOING TO PAY DIVIDENDS IN THE FUTURE.

Steve says AND I GUESS I'M IN A PARTICULARLY IRONIC MOOD BECAUSE IT'S APRIL FOOL'S DAY TODAY, BUT YOU KNOW THERE WAS A HELL OF A BROUHAHA OVER YOUR ATTEMPT TO TRY TO GET EVEN TWO MANDATORY ON-LINE COURSES AS PART OF THE CURRICULUM FOR SECONDARY STUDENTS EARLIER THIS YEAR. NOW OF COURSE ALL THE STUDENTS ARE GONNA BE ALL ON-LINE ALL THE TIME. AT LEAST TO THE END OF THIS SCHOOL YEAR. AGAIN, DO YOU FIND OF FEEL LIKE YOU'RE GETTING THE LAST LAUGH HERE ON THIS?

Lecce says NO, LOOK, I THINK THIS IS A TOUGH CHALLENGE ON EVERYONE. AT THE END OF THE DAY, IT MAY UNDERSCORE THE NEED FOR EMBRACING SOME FORM OF MODERNIZATION OF THE SYSTEM TO AT LEAST HAVE IT AS A BACKSTOP AT THE AT LEAST SHOULD THERE EVER BE A NATURAL DISASTER OR PANDEMIC OR SOMETHING SERIOUS AS WHAT WE'RE EXPERIENCING WITH COVID. BUT I THINK THERE'S LESSONS LEARNED HERE FOR THE FUTURE. FOR NOW LET'S FOCUS ON IMPLEMENTING OUR PLAN THAT ENABLES EVERY CHILD TO LEARN WITH INSTRUCTION LED BY A TEACHER. AND LET'S FOCUS ON THE MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES THAT KIDS NEED TODAY. I WANT TO ENCOURAGE FOLKS LISTENING, IF THERE'S A CHILD LISTENING BY CHANCE, I WOULD BE PLEASED TO HEAR THEY ARE WATCHING THE "THE AGENDA," BUT I WANT THEM TO REACH OUT TO KIDS HELP PHONE, TEXT, REACH OUT. YOU ARE SUPPORTED AND WE WILL GET THROUGH THIS.

The caption changes to "Producer: Harrison Lowman, @harrisonlowman."

Steve says MINISTER LECCE, WE'RE GRATEFUL FOR YOUR TIME AND HOPEFULLY BEFORE LONG WE'LL DO THIS IN PERSON SOME DAY.

Lecce says ABSOLUTELY. BE WELL AND BE SAFE.

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