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Local parents share their thoughts on return to in-person learning

September 18, 2020   ·   0 Comments

Ontario’s return to school plans left parents with a difficult choice in the last few weeks as they decided to send their kids back into classrooms or continue distanced learning from home.

Teachers unions have raised concerns about safety and some parents feel that the return to school is happening too soon, while others are grateful to have their kids back in class and see the province take another step towards normalcy.

Tottenham mother Jennifer Gilbert said she’s pleased with the level of communication coming from Tottenham Public School and Banting Memorial High School, where her two kids attend class. 

“I can’t speak for all the parents but I get a feeling that it’s really helped them feel more comfortable about bringing their kids to school and that kind of thing,” she said.

“I think it has really helped to expel some anxiety as to ‘where does my child go, what does my child do’… so there’s been lots of great information coming through.”

Gilbert’s daughter started Grade 10 at Banting last week and has one class per day for four hours, which alternates weekly. The students stay in one classroom all day with their cohort and are not allowed to leave the school for lunch or any other reason until the end of the day.

“I’m hoping they will at least be allowed out for lunch because it takes quite a toll on the kids to be inside all day like that. Even elementary students, they’re inside but they have at least two nutrition breaks and designated physical activity time, which is outside,” she reasoned.

Gilbert said she hopes the students are given a little bit more freedom going forward as the schools settle into their new normal.

“I think it would make the kids feel better overall, too, because they get into high school and they get to be treated like adults at that point and then to suddenly have all of this stuff taken away from them, it makes them feel like they’re in kindergarten, Grade 1 again,” she noted.

“I hope that everything will just sort of continue along and my whole philosophy is we have to learn how to live with this disease in our society now.”

Mother of two boys with Cystic Fibrosis in Tottenham, Sasha Larocque said her children were really happy to be back in class.

“You know they are so adaptable, it was completely different than what they’re used to, but they were just like, ‘this is what it is now, we wear masks, we don’t have normal recesses,’” she said. “They didn’t complain about it, they just kind of stated it as a fact.”

Larocque said at Father F.X O’Reilly in Tottenham, where her two boys attend class, they were very organized and appeared to hit the ground running on the first day.

All of the teachers were in the school yard and their students lined up so they could enter the school together as a class, one by one, to allow for physical distancing between cohorts.

“I felt like everyone was safe and the kids seemed happy, they were even just waiving to their friends in the other lineups; it was good for them,” Larocque noted.

She told The Times one of her only concerns is proper mask use, which entails sanitizing one hands or washing them before touching or taking off a mask.

“As soon as you touch that mask with your dirty hands it gets contaminated and now you’re breathing in those germs that were on your hands that are now on your mask,” Larocque explained.

“That’s my only concern, there is more of a risk when you misuse or mis-wear your mask, but at the end of the day, I mean you can’t control everything.”

As a parent of two high-risk children, both diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, Larocque said she’s happy with the school’s response and would suggest focusing more on hand hygiene and less on keeping kids into complete bubbles.

Simcoe County District School Board Trustee and mother of four children Sarah Beitz said she’s glad to have her kids back at Boyne River School in Alliston.

“Social interactions have been limited since the start of the pandemic, so it’s nice for them to just be around kids their own age and get out of the house,” she noted.

At Boyne River, the yards are blocked off and there’s designated areas for students to meet when they arrive to school.

So far, her kids in Grade 1 and 3 don’t have to wear masks but have been successful in doing so, which has been a pleasant surprise, said Beitz.

“They’re doing great, they’re doing lots of outdoor learning and they’re really happy with their teachers and seeing a few old friends and meeting new friends in their class,” she noted.

“It was a long time with school closed and I don’t think they realized how much they missed it until they got back, it’s been very positive so far.”

Beitz said she hopes the community can continue doing its part to limit the spread of COVID-19 so schools can remain open for the rest of the year, knowing firsthand the positive impact in-person learning has on her family.

By Sam Odrowski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter


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