Sending children back to school in the fall may be more complicated than it looks

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With thousands of students across Ontario planning return to school in this fall, many parents are in the difficult position of deciding whether they will send their children back to school.

While the Ministry of Education announced their return to school plans with the best medical advice possible, educators, parents, and children are still confused and concerned about how this will look, and what comes out of it.

How will physical distancing be maintained in a classroom of thirty students? What happens when there is an outbreak in a school?  What happens if schools shut down and cannot reopen? 

These questions are difficult to answer, and perhaps it is too early to tell. 

With the threat of a second wave of COVID-19 hitting during flu season hits, there is potential confusion regarding whether a child is battling the flu or infected with COVID-19. Having said this, many parents are unable to keep their sick child home from school. Being unable to take time off work or make arrangements with other caregivers, this, again, puts pressure on a parent’s decision if their child should return to school in the first place. 

Matters are further complicated when families also have loved ones who have compromised immune systems or are at higher risk of not recovering from the virus. If a family has made a social bubble with elderly grandparents or other people with compromised immune systems, does this situation need to change once children go back to school?  Returning to school has implications for everyone’s health, beyond just the students who are returning. 

Parents might find themselves in a position where their co-worker may decide to send their own children back to school, but they don’t. This could result in shaming within the workplace, something that nobody needs, especially during these uncertain times.

Since the pandemic forced schools to shut down back in March, parents have had to juggle jobs, take care of their children, become teachers from home, and try to keep their household under control. Needless to say, it hasn’t been easy for them, and it won’t be easy for them come September. 

Schools aren’t just a place of learning, it’s where children spend time with their friends, make meaningful relationships and realize their potential. School closures has certainly left a void in these areas of childhood development. With the growing concerns about the pandemic’s second wave, it may be hard for many students to see school as a safe place anymore. 

On top of the existing pressures of adolescence, students may feel overwhelmed, scared, and anxious about returning to school during the pandemic.

Parents need to feel confident and comfortable about their decision and it’s up to the Ministry of Education, Ppublic Hhealth, and families to ensure that our students can not only come back to school safely but thrive in their new learning environment. 

While it is certainly no easy task for anyone to determine the best plan of attack for returning to school, educators, students, and parents must stay patient and flexible as they have been since March 12th.  When it comes to our loved ones, it should always be safety first. 


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