It was a busy Wednesday afternoon as parents collected their kids from St. Jerome Catholic School.
Cars lined Hollandview Trail until the bell rang – mothers, fathers and guardians all waiting for the verdict from their youngsters on the first day back at school since classes were forced to shutter due to the global pandemic.
“It was strange – I had to wear a mask, but I actually got to see my friends,” said Ethan Ahle, a Grade 6 student, on what it was like to settle back into the classroom.
Mom Trish said they were both looking forward to a return to in-class learning after a long time of learning at home.
“We were looking forward to him getting him back to a regular routine,” said Trish. “We have an older child as well in high school and it was rough on them not to be around their friends. We were looking forward to getting back to school and to some normalcy again, so we are pretty excited.”
As a work-from-home mom, Trish joked that one of the benefits of a return to in-class learning was not having the kids at home all day long, but it was more about the social interaction – as long as doors remain open.
“We’re just going day by day, to be honest with you,” she said. “If they tell us we’re off again, we’re off again, and we’ll do what we need to do. It’s just part of our lives right now.”
Sharing this sentiment was parent Bill, whose son Aaron just started Grade 5 at St. Jerome.
Aaron took the first day in his stride, saying it felt basically the same to the previous in-class experience, but for Bill it was a return to some much-needed instruction.
“For my youngest child at this school, being in class is very important to him,” he said. “He’s not able to learn properly while on remote learning and the concentration level just isn’t there. My eldest son, who is in high school, can learn from home, but we sent him back [to St. Max] because he needs interaction with other kids.”
In the lead-up to getting his kids back into the classroom mindset, Bill said it was a matter of making sure the students knew what was expected of them from a social distancing and health standpoint, and “just being aware of following through on everything we have had them do for the last year-and-a-half.”
But while Aaron gave his first day back a resounding thumbs-up, there were some challenges for Bill on the horizon.
“My oldest son came home [from high school] and said he didn’t feel safe, that there were far too many kids in his class with no social distancing and that he walked into something that he wasn’t expecting to walk into,” he said.
“We’re going to listen to how he feels,” he added, when asked if this feedback may have prompted a re-think on the merits of in-class vs. remote learning. “We don’t know whether or not it is just an anxiety thing in terms of not being in that situation for two years, whether it is legit and if he still has the same feelings in two weeks. We might have to adjust our thinking.”
Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran