By: Michelle Poirier
While most parents are happy that schools will reopen for in-person learning on February 16, some are concerned about the new COVID-19 variants and will be keeping their children home.
Aprille Kearsey, a resident of Jackson’s Point, said her daughter Ava is excited to head back to school to finish senior kindergarten.
“She misses her teacher and friends and getting out of the house,” Ms. Kearsey said.
“Online learning has been going okay for Ava, and the teachers put in a lot of effort to keep students engaged, but with their schedule at home and Ava not being able to stay focused or use Google classroom on her own, they haven’t been as involved as they would like,” Ms. Kearsey said.
“Of course, there is a bit of worry sending her back, but no hesitation. There does not seem to be many cases in our area, especially not in kids, and bottom line, we feel she needs to be back in school for full-time education and social stimulation. Being an only child, she has spent almost no time with kids her own age this last year,” she said.
She said the school has been sending information and updates and that teachers have always been accessible by phone or email. And, with the new safety measures, she’s confident her daughter will be fine.
“I think making all kids, even the lower grades, wear masks is crucial—something they should have been doing before. I am glad they are doing it now,” she said.
Under the reopening, YRDSB and YCDSB schools must follow new provincial health and safety measures requiring that masks must be worn in-class in grades one to three, a previous requirement for grades four to 12.
Although masks are still not mandatory in kindergarten, students are strongly encouraged to wear them.
However, for all other grades, masks are now required outdoors, including during recess and in all common areas. Students will also be discouraged from congregating before and after school.
Public Health is also now recommending that students wear three-layer masks following the Public Health Agency of Canada’s recommendation.
The York Region website says there is no need to discard two-layer cloth masks as long as they are well maintained and well-fitting.
The website also says that two-layer masks can be converted to three-layer masks by adding an additional filter to the mask to help trap smaller particles.
For more information on how to do that, visit www.canada.ca\facecoverings.
New screening measures will also be required for all school staff, secondary students and visitors. However, there are no details yet regarding what these measures will be, as the ministry is still finalizing the information, Cynthia Cordova, YRDSB Board Chair & Georgina’s School Trustee, said.
Ms. Cordova believes schools reopening will be good for students struggling without face-to-face learning and those dealing with poor mental health.
She also said schools reopening would also help parents who need to go back to work.
Ms. Cordova has heard from many parents regarding online learning, and the reviews are mixed.
While some parents enjoy having their children at home, others face challenges balancing working from home and supporting their children with schooling.
And some parents are struggling to find after school programming to care for children while they go back to work.
Heather St. Amant-Salvati has decided not to send her daughter, Chloe, back to Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Academy in Keswick to finish grade 10.
“Chloe is going to stay at home and not return to any in-school learning,” she said.
“With a new variant and Chloe’s anxiety, she is doing well just staying at home and keeping in contact with friends over Zoom chats.”
Ms. St. Amant-Salvati said while online learning has been going well for Chloe, she thinks it is easier for secondary students than elementary students.
For instance, her sister struggles to work from home with three young children in online schooling and will be sending them back to in-person classes.
Whether students are learning from home or in-person, Ms. Cordova said parents need to reassure their children that everything will be okay.
“Their mental health needs to be looked at first and foremost, and the schooling will come. I think everybody is in the same boat, and that includes our staff because they’re still learning and, you know, it’s another year of challenges, and I think we’re going to all be okay. It’s just a matter of consistently looking after our well being,” she said.