The OBA Education Law Section hosted “Legal Considerations in the Era of At Home Learning” on May 1, 2020. The panel of experts included Jennifer Feren of District School Board of Niagara, Joël Rocque of Emond Harnden LLP, and Charlene Theodore of Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association and was chaired by Nicola Simmons of Keel Cottrelle LLP. This article provides a summary of the topics discussed.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, on March 12, 2020, Ontario’s Minister of Education ordered publicly funded schools to be closed pursuant to subsection 5(1) of the Education Act. The closures were extended to May 3, 2020 and subsequently to May 31, 2020, and recently announced by the government of Ontario to be extended to the remainder of the school year. The closure of schools and the transition to at-home learning have raised important legal considerations for school boards, teachers, and students, with respect to a range of issues including privacy, student discipline, electronic meetings, limitation periods and timelines, and accommodation of students with exceptionalities.
While the government has recently provided clarity on some of these issues through legislative and regulatory amendments, many questions remain unanswered and school boards will continue to be confronted with unique challenges that arise as a result of these changes.