Ontario distributing free iPads to kids who cannot access province's online learning tools
TORONTO -- The Ontario government will be distributing iPads with free wireless data plans to students who may not have access to the province’s online learning tools as schools remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking at Queen’s Park on Friday alongside Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said that more than 21,000 iPads were being “deployed” by school boards.
“Our government made a commitment to parents, that we would ensure your children would be safe while they learn,” Lecce said. “We have to bridge the gap for those kids who may not have the tools to learn.”
The iPads are being purchased and distributed by Ontario school boards to students of low-income families, the province said, and will be equipped with free wireless data plans. The device will also come pre-programed with resources to help support learning.
The data plans will be available until the end of June.
“These students will be able to access resources through our learn at home portal,” Ford said. “For the parents, I hope this gives you some piece of mind, knowing that your children will have access to the tools they need to continue learning during this difficult period.”
Individual school boards will determine the requirements for which students are eligible for the iPads.
The Toronto District School Board said they are purchasing about 6,500 iPads as part of a larger initiative that will see about 30,000 families receive a loaned decive. They started to be delivered on April 6.
"To determine need, we sent out a survey to determine what families required – Internet and/or a device," spokesperson Ryan Bird said.
The Peel District School Board said theyare in the process of deploying about 20,000 devices and 2,000 Internet sticks
"In Peel, teachers asked families if their children required a device or Internet access to participate in distance learning. We did not seek to verify/confirm need."
In a news release issued Friday afternoon, the Progressive Conservative government added that they are working to provide high-speed, low-cost Internet access to subsidized tenants
Earlier this week, Ford confirmed that students at Ontario public schools will not be returning to the classroom in early May.
The provincial government initially planned to reopen schools on May 1 for teachers and May 4 for students, and suggested that any further closures would be up to the Chief Medical Officer of Health.
On Tuesday, Ford said students will not be returning to school as planned in light of the provincial extension of the state of emergency, which lasts until May 12.
While Ford stressed that his government isn't cancelling the school year entirely, he did not provide a potential date when students could return to the classroom. On Friday, he said he will be making the decision to reopen schools based on “health and science.”
“We don’t want to put our kids in jeopardy. Our number one priority is to make sure our kids are healthy and safe,” he said.
Ford also said that no matter what, his government is going to make sure that students graduate this year.
When asked if the province was prepared for the possibility that schools may not reopen in September, Lecce said that the government was looking into “every eventuality.”
“If we get the impression that we need to add additional supports, leaning into the next year, we will do it. We are looking into every option to make sure that no child has a gap in learning,” he said.