As a student with family responsibilities during this pandemic, we understand you may be facing a very challenging time. While you have your usual challenges of keeping up academically, you are now faced with the difficulties of social isolation. We understand that with your children at home with you, you may have less time and find it more difficult to fully participate in classes, group projects and exams.
We strongly encourage that you inform your professors, departments and Registrar’s Office (if applicable) to let them know of the challenges you are facing. Writing to your professors or speaking to your Registrar’s Office may not be something you have the time to do. However, unless you bring your concerns to their attention, they will not be able to assist you.
It is important to reflect on the unique needs you have in studying and learning from home so you can clearly communicate with peers and instructors- but also so that you can be clear with your family and your own expectations!
Below, we have created a series of FAQs to help direct you to the right resources that could assist you during this challenging time.
Where can I find U of T COVID-19 provisions about academics?
Please refer to the University of Toronto’s website for its response to COVID-19.
Continue to check your U of T email for updates directly from your divisions, residences, Registrar’s Offices and Deans of Students.
Graduate Students, please visit the School of Graduate Studies webpage for specific updates.
Are there temporary OSAP provisions regarding dropping to part-time status for the winter term? Will there be financial penalties if I do so?
Yes, there are temporary provisions in place. Please contact your Registrar’s Office regarding this issue and any other academic/financial issues you may encounter.
You may also refer to the Canada Student Aid page for more information.
What shall I do if I cannot watch online classes or do my work while having my toddlers around?
It is of utmost importance that undergraduate students with family responsibilities petition instructors through their Registrar’s Offices or speak directly to their professors.
Graduate students unable to watch online classes or do their academic work due to family responsibilities should speak with their graduate supervisors/professors or departments about the difficulties they are facing.
For example, you may request flexibility for deadlines during this time. You may ask that the deadlines expire at midnight instead of noon if this is what would be helpful. You should raise the matter with your professors and/or program explaining that it is difficult to participate in an online class while having children around and ask if there is an alternative.
How shall I approach Instructors/Professors about family responsibilities?
As a student parent puts it, “everyone has 24 hours in a day, but not everyone has the same challenges”.
Visit the Family Care Office website to learn more about how you can Communicate with Your Professors.
Be as specific as possible when communicating your ability to perform academic work and learning with your instructors. You do not need to share the details of your personal life, but it is helpful if you can offer clear suggestions or amendments to your learning that would help you in your role as a student.
For example: a “real time” presentation in the afternoon may be disrupted by my children; would I be able to change my time or offer a written paper instead.
Note: always talk to the Family Care Office and your registrar or academic advisor before following advice of dropping or withdrawing from a course due to family care responsibilities. There are many supports and accommodations that can be made to support your academic progress. Dropping or withdrawing from a course or program should be a last resort.
Are there U of T emergency grants for students during the pandemic?
Contact your Registrar’s Office if you are an undergraduate student and the School of Graduate Studies Financial Aid & Advising if a graduate student.
You can also find information at the Funding Opportunity Directory.
What financial assistance is available to students from the government?
The University of Toronto is working to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including providing emergency financial support and work-study opportunities for students. The Funding Opportunity Directory provides resources to access those university financial aid supports as well as provincial and federal government programs.
Are there any additional resources that I can use for general financial difficulties?
Visit Credit Counselling Society for a series of free webinars that could help you better handle your current financial struggles.
I am having trouble paying my rent. What should I do?
Where can I ask for help?
There are many services and supports that can support you and your family’s well-being as you enter the role of a student, including:
Family Care Office: Our Office supports you by providing confidential guidance, resources, information, referrals, educational programming and advocacy on family issues. Please visit our website. You can also contact us at email@example.com
My SSP: My Student Support Program (My SSP) provides University of Toronto students with immediate and/or ongoing confidential, 24-hour support for any school, health, or general life concern at no cost to students. You can call or chat with a counsellor directly from your phone whenever, wherever you are for a range of concerns. Students who use My SSP still have access to existing campus and community mental health services.
Where can I find help with getting groceries?
- The City of Toronto is working with community and corporate partners during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure food access for vulnerable residents. Information is available through 211central.ca.
- Daily Bread Food Bank – Online donations and food drop-off for the hungry.
- Davenport Helps – Matching helpers with people who need food/other supports in the Davenport community.
- Food Rescue – Online, local platform for donors of surplus food to connect directly with social service programs.
- Good Neighbour Project– Providing support, groceries and necessities for vulnerable people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- OpenLab – University Health Network’s OpenLab helps vulnerable seniors living in low-income housing through pick-up and delivery of groceries, food bank items and other household essentials during the pandemic. A single phone number/hotline facilitates connection to a network of volunteers. Volunteer intake form
- The People’s Pantry – A GTA initiative safely providing and delivering cooked meals/groceries to specific communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
If you are a frontline healthcare worker:
- GroceryHero – A free grocery delivery service to help frontline medical workers focus on fighting COVID-19. Volunteers are matched with medical workers in their neighbourhood.
Will work-study positions be available?
Yes, please visit https://clnx.utoronto.ca/home.htm for further information.
What are some ways I can approach homeschooling?
There are currently many resources available online to help you tackle homeschooling your child.
Kids out and About has created a series of tips and videos to help you with homeschooling.
You can also refer to:
- The Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents
- Toronto District School Board – Home Schooling
- York Region District School Board
How can I care for my child(ren) while I try to complete my work?
There are lots of ways to keep children busy while you work- here are some strategies that fellow U of T parents have suggested:
- Schedule virtual chats with friends or family members to “entertain” and keep kids busy. They may want to:
- Read a story to kids
- Conduct a virtual scavenger hunt
- Sing songs
- Or just chat!
- The Family Care Office Working and Caring for Kids While Social Distancing has some great resources you can use.
- Today’s Parent, Parents Canada, and Toronto4Kids are constantly releasing suggestions on their social media about children’s activities at home. The YMCA has an online live weekly schedule of family activities.
- Virtual playdates with friends, classmates
- Public resources such as Toronto Public Library (including Dial-a-Story), EarlyON, Facebook groups, etc.
- Use screen time intentionally at times of day when you need focused time
- YouTube has exercise videos for kids, story time, documentaries, etc.!
- If your young child wants to sit on your lap, tape some wrapping paper/newspaper to the table in front of your laptop/ keyboard- move it far back so you can reach it but your child can’t and then let them colour and draw on the paper on the table. They’ll be on your lap, colour, while you type or listen to a lecture!
- Learning at Home with Family Obligations
Who should I contact if I have poor/no internet connection or have difficulties with my laptop/computer?
Please refer to the Funding Opportunity Directory for more information on financial aid resources.
If you are a U of T undergraduate or graduate student with family responsibilities and would like to learn more about supports available to you, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. We encourage students parents to raise any challenges they may have in order for the university to become aware and provide you with the support necessary.