A Labrador women's advocate says the province's back-to-class possibilities weigh heavily on mothers and families as strategies for handling the upcoming school year remain uncertain.
Tony Stack, CEO of the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District, told CBC last month that his board was preparing for all three options laid out by the province: a full return to in-person classes, a rotational in-person return to aid social distancing protocols, and online-only schooling.
But neither the district nor the Innu school board have selected a plan.
Holly Williams-Joy, executive director of the Mokami Status of Women Council and herself a mother to three young children, said her head is perpetually flooded with worries and questions about what next month will bring — and she's not the only one feeling the pressure.
"It's this looming date over our heads. Nobody seems to know what's happening," Williams Joy said, adding that she's considering buying school supplies in case she's directed to keep the children at home.
"I think some women have been losing sleep over it — what it means to return to work, plus trying to educate your child."
Even in a full-return scenario, Williams-Joy said she doesn't see how schools can manage young children and ensure they're staying six feet apart or practising other rules within health guidance.
In Labrador, students in the Innu system are slated to go back Sept. 8. But what that looks like in Innu communities is still anyone's guess, says Clarence Davis, assistant director of education with the board.
"Nobody really knows what to fully expect in September," Davis said. "That's the biggest thing. It's uncertainty."
Davis said the province's two Innu schools have been following the NLESD's lead in a three-pronged schooling model. The Innu board is calling teachers and staff back to work two weeks ahead of the start of classes to prepare them for all scenarios, he said.
Those preparations include online teaching techniques, training from health workers on how to implement both personal protective equipment and physical distancing guidelines in small children, and enhanced cleaning.
Davis says how exactly those plans will play out is still up in the air.
For Williams-Joy, that means worrying not only about possible disease transmission within schools, but also about family dynamics and work-life balance.
"Women in general have this big gigantic pressure of providing for the family. It feels like we've gone back in time with the whole COVID situation.… How do you advance your career while your children at home?" she said.
"We need to ask what resources are going to be there. How does it look for women moving forward? September is right around the corner."