TORONTO — Ontario Premier Doug Ford is pointing parents and students toward online learning resources while schools are closed due to COVID-19, with the province planning a second phase should the closures have to be extended.

Ford said the “learn at home” online portal doesn’t replace school, but is meant to address parents’ concerns that kids will fall behind during this period.

“As a father myself, I know parents always want the best for their children,” the premier said. “Parents understand why schools and daycares are closed … but I also know from speaking to parents that they’re concerned about ensuring their child will continue to learn while at home.”

The resources offer interactive activities for elementary students and a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) courses for high school students.

Many of the online activities are from TVO, the province’s public broadcaster, whose television schedule is also being changed to add more educational programming for kids during the day.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce has ordered the school closure for two weeks following this week’s March break, but acknowledged that may have to be extended.

“If Ontario’s chief medical officer of health recommends closing schools beyond April 5, the government will unveil a second phase of learning at home,” Lecce said.

Ontario reported 50 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, bringing the total in the province to 308, including five resolved cases and two deaths.

That’s the province’s largest single-day increase in new cases, but Health Minister Christine Elliott said the growth isn’t surprising given the numbers of Canadians returning home from travel abroad.

No information is listed for about half of the new cases, but two people are listed as being hospitalized and four are in a long-term care home in the Durham Region.

It’s not yet known how the four people in the facility — ranging in age from their 60s to their 90s — contracted the virus.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 20, 2020.

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press

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