It wasn’t the answer they were hoping for, but staff and leadership with the Kenora Catholic District School Board are prepared for the continuation of virtual learning across the province.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced students will continue learning virtually to finish off the 2020-2021 school year on June 2, saying Ontario’s modelling shows returning students to schools could lead to ‘thousands’ of new COVID-19 cases each day; a risk Ford says he isn’t willing to take.

“Our schools, principals and educators were prepared for any possibility,” said Director of Education for the Kenora Catholic District School Board, Paul White.

“We know that this announcement is very disappointing and hard for many students and families who were hoping for a safe return to school. We will continue to work together to support one another every step of the way.”

School years will end on June 25 in northwestern Ontario. Ontario says they’re aiming to vaccinate all youth between the ages of 12 and 17 before the end of August, ahead of the 2021-2022 school year.

“As always, the best form of learning is in-person,” adds White. “That’s where we always have the best outcomes. We’re very hopeful that we’ll get back to in-person learning so that all of our kids can be fully engaged with their learning.”

Ford later noted schools are hoping to be able to host in-person, outdoor graduation ceremonies for all grades later this month. More information on local graduation ceremonies is expected soon.

White was named the KCDSB’s Director of Education on January 1. The longtime trustee and former St. Thomas Aquinas Principal stepped into the position of Derek Haime, who accepted a position with the Ontario College of Teachers in December 2020.

White’s been with Kenora Catholic for over 16 years and has worked in education for over 28 years, serving as TA’s principal for 8 years before becoming a Superintendent. He was named one of Canada’s Outstanding Principles in 2014.