LONDON, ONT. -- The COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools to go virtual, and with homework assignments being sent in email chains and e-learning sites replacing chalkboards, it’s easy for a family without a reliable internet access to feel left out.

The Stobie family, who live in Strathroy, Ont. have been experiencing this for weeks.

“The first thing you have to do on an assignment is somehow be online,” says Bill Stobie, the father of two teenage students.

He says he understands these are very difficult times for everyone, but wishes the curriculum format would adapt too.

“The principal and the teachers they seem to understand, we have a conversation with the principal and he says he will talk to the teachers, and then the very next homework they send is…go online and watch a video.”

Katelyn Stobie, a first-year high school student, says she hasn’t been able to start most of her assigned homework.

“[Homework assignments] involve links so I can’t really do that, and then there is a couple of them that say go online, and one of them says make a Twitter account which I can’t do either.”

The London District Catholic School Board has been trying to accommodate students during this crisis.

Ana Paula Fernandes, the superintendent of education, says the board has purchased over 1,300 Chromebooks for students.

Fernandes says the board is now going to provide approximately 100 iPhones to students without an internet connection, delivering them as early as Wednesday.

“Tomorrow we are going to be distributing, delivering to homes approximately 100 internet packages. These are iPhones that will allow students and families to tether their device, whether it’s a Chromebook or a laptop, to the cellular data.”

Minster of Education Stephen Lecce says that students should not be harmed as a result of this crisis.

And Fernandes says she agrees, adding that teachers are going to be flexible for students and want to give them opportunities not limitations.

“If a student is only now, tomorrow for example, being able to access internet, then any of those activities that that student may not have been able to participate in, that opportunity will still be made available to them,” she says.

Fernandes adds that any grade a student had before the pandemic will remain, and that the schoolwork is only “an opportunity to improve upon the grade.”

Kelly Elliot, deputy mayor of the Municipality of Thames Centre, says that cellular data may not be the perfect fix for everyone, adding it all depends on people’s location and whether a cell tower is close enough to offer a good signal.

“We need to make internet access an essential service…everyone can get hydro lines to their house, everyone should get internet to their house,” says Elliot.

Bill says internet connection has been an issue for the family for years, well before COVID-19, and hopes this pandemic will provide a better solution to families in rural areas.

“I’ve heard kids talking about their parents’ bills for internet and stuff and I don’t think that’s something children should worry about like, my mom and dad pay three-times what people in town do, and we’re lucky if it works on a Friday night.”