Some OCDSB parents anxious as back-to-school decision looms

·2 min read
Students return to in-class learning at Vincent Massey Public School in February. Parents with Ottawa's English public board have until midnight tonight to decide whether their students will head back to the classroom for next year — or will continue to learn remotely. (Blair Gable/Reuters - image credit)
Students return to in-class learning at Vincent Massey Public School in February. Parents with Ottawa's English public board have until midnight tonight to decide whether their students will head back to the classroom for next year — or will continue to learn remotely. (Blair Gable/Reuters - image credit)

Some parents with children in the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) are struggling with a looming decision: whether or not to send their kids back to in-person learning this fall.

The board's parents were sent a notice at the end of February asking them to decide by 11:59 p.m. on March 14 if their children would be attending in-person classes or learning virtually.

If parents don't meet the deadline, the board has said it will assign the child to in-person learning. The decision parents make is expected to be for the entire school year.

"I think it will come down to the wire," said rob mclennan, who has two children in elementary school who've been learning virtually over this past year.

"But I also think we're going to hold out the hope that if we need to switch, we're just going to switch whether they like it or not."

Pictured here with his child Aoife, rob mclennan (who uses lower case letters in his name) says the tight deadline isn't fair on parents.
Pictured here with his child Aoife, rob mclennan (who uses lower case letters in his name) says the tight deadline isn't fair on parents.(submitted by rob mclennan )

After the pandemic hit, the family settled upon the virtual learning stream, said mclennan (who spells his name in lower case), because his wife is at high risk of contracting COVID-19.

He said he's frustrated by the short time frame parents were given to decide, and feels like he doesn't have all the necessary information to make such a big choice.

"We don't know if it'll be safe in September. We have no idea," he said. "We know other people and other boards across Ontario that aren't being even asked the question, let alone given a deadline."

Waiting until the last minute

Sarah Abdo is also waiting for the last moment to decide, and while she's leaning toward in-person learning, she's also torn about the choice.

"It's not clear what precautions are being taken at schools to protect the kids," she said

"We have some general guidelines from last year, but considering now that the number of kids will be much larger, how will these guidelines be affected?"

Abdo said she's trying to weigh her daughter's safety with her mental well-being, and is watching the vaccine rollout carefully.

Sarah Abdo says she'll be waiting until the last minute to decide.
Sarah Abdo says she'll be waiting until the last minute to decide. (submitted by Sarah Abdo)

The OCDSB has said the decision needs to be made now, so that the board can have enough time to go through the staffing process and ensure schools are ready for the fall.

Both parents said they understand the reason for the tight deadline, but wish the board would realize that the pandemic creates a special circumstance.

"I wish that we had more time — like, if we can decide that in two months from now, or something like that. " said Abdo.