Return to school met with cautious optimism

·4 min read

The kids are back in the classroom – at least most of them are after getting a lengthy break during the province wide lockdown.

While the COVID-19 pandemic still poses an obvious risk to both students and teachers, as well as other family members if a child brings the virus home with them, there seems to be a generally positive attitude with regards to getting children back at their desks in a regular classroom setting – although some pa-ents have mixed feelings on the return to the school.

Most parents we spoke to, at least in our rather informal poll, indicated that they thought the kids needed the social interaction that comes with being in the classroom as well as the ability to learn in a more formal setting rather than accessing a computer screen at home.

“My kids start back on the 16th and they are happy to go back,” said one parent.

Another parent with two small children said, “Online was too hard for the youngest and both missed the interaction with friends.”

While the kids may be happy to be going back, parents also indicated a need for a break from dealing with children who are developing a case of cabin fever from staying home and not being able to mix and mingle with their friends.

“I couldn’t be happier,” one mom said. “They need this just as much as we do! As long as they are safe, which they have been, there shouldn’t be any issues.”

One mom expressed her opinion about the return to the classroom by simply saying she was “super happy.”

Parent Christina Ciarabellini said she was “happy about it for the most part,” but is still concerned because the pandemic is still a threat.

“Of course, I wish there wasn’t a pandemic to worry about but so many kids need to go back for their mental health and to be able to learn. Being home isn’t what is best for everyone. I just hope the kids stay in school. This back and forth, in school, then virtual, is hard for parents to juggle. The parents who want to do virtual can do virtual – at least they have that option.”

Alliston’s Melissa Lachaine has two children in the school system, one with special needs.

“I’ve had no support for my son until a week ago,” Melissa said. “I asked for support maybe a week into lock down. As for them going back to school, I can’t wait. My son who needs the extra support has been all out of sorts. It’s been a real disruption over the year. He needs to be in school to have that set schedule that he needs.”

Parent Kathleen Boyd, who also works in the health care system, said she has mixed feelings about sending the kids back to school.

“My kids were overjoyed about hearing they were going back to school,” Kathleen said. “They have adjusted well, and deal (online) with people every day, so they are getting their own version of socialization but it’s not the same. I am, for sure, worried about them going back. I don’t think the quality of education on-line is the same. For that reason, I’m glad they will be getting better, in person, learning.”

Working in the health fi eld, Kathleen said she sees first hand the precautions that are taken to avoid the spread of the virus, but doesn’t think the same level of precautions are happening in the schools, and is concerned the virus could be brought home by children and spread to other family members.

A school teacher who works with one of the local school boards said she is concerned that the schools are not prepared to fight the virus in an effective manner.

“I think a lot of parents are happy that their kids are going back because trying to juggle your job at home and navigate the online learning was too much for them,” she said, adding her own daughter “really struggled with it.”

The teacher, who asked not to be named, said she doesn’t think the schools will be entirely safe citing class sizes which don’t allow for physical distancing as well as the fact that teachers will be exposed to an entire group of potential carriers and have not been vaccinated against the virus.

“We’re putting a lot of kids in one enclosed space with a teacher, and the person who’s most likely to get sick, really sick, the teacher, is going in un-vaccinated. We do hand sanitizing and try to separate the desks as much as possible but there’s only so much you can do.”

While most kids seem to be happy to be back in the classroom, parents seem to be optimistic but at the same time still have a degree of concern for their chil-dren’s well being.

Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times