Warnings and worries in Wolseley

·3 min read

Anna Milne-Karn’s Barbie medical clinic is equipped with an examination table, tiny medical supplies and a doll-sized health-care professional.

Aside from its hot pink-and-white decor, Luanne Karn said her daughter’s toy is “identical” to the COVID-19 testing site at 1181 Portage Ave.

Karn would know — she’s become familiar with both facilities, as have her partner and her daughter.

“It feels like water going up your nose,” Anna said, recalling the experience of getting her nasal cavity swabbed by a life-sized health-care worker at the real testing site last week.

Because kids often flinch when getting tested, Heather Milne was tasked with putting their eight-year-old daughter in a special hold. The test made Anna sneeze three times.

The scene played out just after 10 a.m. on Nov. 13, sandwiched between Anna’s mothers’ tests.

The Milne-Karns scheduled appointments after being alerted of a COVID-19 exposure in Anna’s class, Room 214 at École Laura Secord.

The family received three emails from administrators on Remembrance Day about a positive case present at the Wolseley elementary school days earlier. It wasn’t the first time they had received the dreaded notice, but there was extra cause for concern this time around, given Milne and Anna had been staying home because of mild symptoms.

Milne was feeling fatigued and Anna didn’t go to school Nov. 10 because she had a sore throat and headache. (Before the pandemic, it was the kind of mild illness Milne says they would have given Anna an Advil and sent her to school.)

To their relief, the test results, which came back within 48 hours, were negative.

“Once you get tested for the first time, it takes you to a whole other level of thinking about the pandemic. It’s not hypothetical anymore,” Karn said during a FaceTime call while the family was isolating while awaiting the results.

Milne echoed those comments, saying a COVID-19 scare heightens uncertainty and related stresses, including making contingency plans for sick days and school closures.

There’s a new level of responsibility for parents when it comes to communicating with children about the crisis, Karn added.

When schools entered a restricted (code-orange) phase, Anna’s Grade 3 class was split into two rooms. Many of her peers have since opted for temporary remote learning, so the duplex class has collapsed into one room again.

Should in-person classes be cancelled, Karn will provide home-school lessons. A resource teacher currently on leave, she is more than qualified.

But for now, Anna happily goes to school. To date, her 2020-21 academic highlights are mainly art projects, including making poppies for Remembrance Day and painting sunflowers while learning about Vincent van Gogh.

The two moms call their daughter’s teacher a “hero” who has helped Anna dramatically improve her French skills.

“(School) is so valuable for her mental health. Her teacher this year is so fantastic. She’s learning a lot,” Milne said. “We would love for her to be there, but of course, as parents, we’re concerned about COVID numbers. We are really feeling like the government has let us down.”

The Milne-Karns have been calling for the province to increase public-education funding this year.

Most recently, Karn has co-organized Parents for Public Education — a group of hundreds who have penned an open letter to the province with calls to action in support of teachers.

Their demands include fast-tracking virus tests for teachers, providing school staff with appropriate personal protective equipment and spending the $85.4 million in federal funding earmarked for back-to-school on COVID-19-related supports for education.

Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press