Monday, August 10, 2020

Back to School?

The plans for going back to school for many provinces, including our own, Ontario, have been released.

I have my own views about this and I wanted to share them with you and see what you think too, in particular those of you who are parents, educators, and health care professionals.  So please leave a comment on this post, or on my Facebook, or slide into my Instagram DMs (@smacto) and give me your thoughts.

This may be a bit of a jumble and I'll try to organize my thoughts below, but essentially it comes down to this - I am glad that schools will be open for a full school day, five days a week. I have some qualifications to that, but overall I feel excited that my kids can go back to school (Q is starting JK, and E will be in Grade 4).  So what am I missing?  Am I na├»ve to think this is a good idea?  How do you feel?

From my view it has been difficult to have the kids at home with us while we have been trying to do our full time day jobs.  For my own sanity I need those kids back in school and it needs to be everyday.  We have options of course, if we needed to hire a nanny, we could, but it isn't the solution I want.

I have heard lots of criticism of Ontario's plan and at first I wanted the critics to be quiet, since I heard "5 days a week" and that's all I cared about.  I was afraid too much criticism would lead to clawing back on those days.  But constructive criticism is useful and if the plan can be adapted to improve it, then let's do it. What does drive me nuts is that the government then gets criticized for making a change when it should be applauded for listening and considering different ideas.  They had to start somewhere and no plan will ever be the most perfect plan.

I know everyone has different concerns, but my main one is just getting back to some semblance of normal. Covid will be with us for awhile, even if a vaccine is developed, and we can't just sit in our house forever.  People say the Province is prioritizing the economy over schools but I don't necessarily agree with that; they go hand-in-hand.  Especially for people that don't have flexible jobs or multiple childcare options, the kids need free public school all day everyday for the parents to work.  I do think we could use a bit more creativity for the schools, and maybe we will see that, like more outdoor options until the weather gets bad.

I'm not worried about the kids wearing masks, I think they can handle it, and I know physical distancing will be difficult, so I suppose one of the main issues is class sizes, and that has always been an issue, even without a pandemic to contend with.  I know that the school year will not look the same and that there will be things that are missing, but that doesn't bother me as much. My worry is more that it will all come crashing down and a rise in cases, no matter how slight, will send everyone home for an undetermined amount of time again.  I think we need to recognize that there will be positive cases but we should be able to reduce risk and keep most people healthy. Ontario seems to be trending in the right direction, although the second wave will arrive at some point.

I also see the stories about kids going back to school and it's been a disaster, but I haven't heard any success stories, and I'm sure there must be some, right?! Also each jurisdiction is different in terms of their cases and attitudes towards the virus itself and we don't always know what the exact rules in place are in those disaster scenarios.

So am I totally out in left field here? Is it totally unreasonable to put kids back to school with these guidelines?  Will my kids be the only ones in line on the first day of school?


  1. This is good critical thinking. I'm not sure how I would feel in your situation. The educator in our house agrees with you that they have to go back to school sometime. It's not perfect, though. But what plan is? I can certainly see that it has been a long challenge for families, especially those who are not working from home and without child care options. I imagine for most will be good for them to be back in a classroom. And have the teachers teach. I'm interested in what others will say.

  2. We have talked with our kids A LOT about this. IF cases weren't trending significantly downward in Ontario (and our region), IF I didn't work in the school system (as a substitute secretary/librarian), and IF our kids were JK/SK age, we wouldn't be sending them back to school. However, they need social interaction (beyond with each other), I really want to go back to work, AND it feels like the only other option is to completely isolate for the next year (or until there is a vaccine available for everyone). I'm not happy with that option either.

    And I want to add, when my kids were JK/SK, I was mainly at stay at home mom (especially for Sam), and so that's why we would make a different decision with a JK/SK kid. I can completely understand why you're sending Q.

  3. I have two kids in public schools in Toronto, and as an added layer in this, my older child has asthma. It is mild, but this is an added consideration for our family. I of course want my kids to go back to school and to see their friends and have some structure and routine back, but the current plan really comes up short for me. Both of my kids will be in classrooms where physical distancing will not be possible and this is a major concern for us. It's so disappointing to me that, since March, we have all been repeatedly told to physically distance, maintain hand hygiene, and mask - and that the province's back to school plan doesn't allow for distance to be maintained and that masks are optional for K-3. In my kids' school, pre-pandemic, the soap dispensers in the bathroom were often broken and / or empty, so I can't imagine that suddenly hand hygiene in our school or other schools with similar issues will be maintained and supported to the level required. I really hate that parents have been put in the position to make such a huge decision with such little time left. I completely respect that every family has to make the decision that is best for them, and I am happy that kids who will go back regardless of class sizes will get to see their friends again, but I can't send mine back without at least the issue of class sizes being addressed. Both my sister and my brother in law are teachers and I am very concerned for them.