Parents of children with disabilities say they're facing a back-to-school dilemma with two bad options.
If they send their kids to class, they fear their children won't get the specialized learning plans they need because of the pandemic.
Keeping them home also presents challenges, since some children find it next to impossible to concentrate during remote learning.
We're not feeling really good either way. - Kate Logue, parent
On Monday, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) released preliminary results showing more than one-quarter of elementary school students and more than one-fifth of high school students have chosen the remote learning option this fall.
"We're not feeling really good either way," parent Kate Logue told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.
Logue's daughter, who's about to begin Grade 5, has autism. Logue said her daughter is usually in a regular classroom, but needs extra help both academically and with "self-regulation and certain behaviours."
A difficult choice
Logue doesn't blame the school board for her dilemma, and said it's not helpful that the province keeps changing back-to-school plans.
"It isn't the most ideal situation for a child with autism. We struggled, for sure, in the springtime [with remote learning], and not feeling fantastic about the idea that she may not even be remote learning with actual classmates and teachers that she knows," said Logue.
"Pre-COVID, she wasn't really receiving the amount of support she needs ... so the idea that she'd be receiving it now was just not going to happen."
Logue said she ultimately decided to keep her daughter at home for remote learning.
'Lesser of 2 evils'
Tricia Ross said she's facing a similar dilemma. Her son is also going into Grade 5 with the OCDSB, and has been diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia.
"With his learning exceptionalities, it's really important that he is reintroduced to the social world," said Ross.
Ross said her family had been planning to move her son out of the French immersion school he was attending before the pandemic, because they "didn't feel that his learning needs are being met."
Now, they're worried that transitioning him to a new school during the pandemic would create even more unrest. They've decided to send him back to class, and keep him at his current school so his surroundings stay as familiar as possible.
"At this point, it's the lesser of two evils. Do we choose to optimize his potential for mental health outcomes? Or do we choose ... academic achievement? Well, the obvious answer for us is mental health," said Ross.
"All the cracks and all of the systems that [weren't] working are being exposed even further now."