I realize that I’m probably in the small minority of Canadian parents, but I’m actually feeling mostly OK and not scared about my kids’ return to school this fall.
It was never a consideration for us not to send our kids back to in-person learning, simply for the sake of all of our mental health. The kids need time with their teachers and peers in a structured learning environment, and mommy and daddy need time without little ones constantly under foot.
I think my relative ease with sending my kids back sans worries has a lot to do with our personal situation, for which I realize I’m extremely privileged. First, my kids are attending schools with small populations, and second, I’ve stopped thinking in terms of avoiding/preventing Covid.
Last year we were lucky enough that there were only about 75 students in person at our sons’ school. While my JK student had about 25 kids in his class, my older son was in a cohort of just 16.
Even with these small numbers, our school was not immune from the effects of Covid. One staff member in one of my child’s classes tested positive for the virus, which meant the entire class had to isolate for two weeks. Despite the positive case, however, we were extremely lucky that no students or other staff contracted the virus. Masking and other protocols worked, in this instance.
This year, we still don’t know how many children will be in our Kindergartener’s class, but we assume it’s about the same number as last year. The numbers (which we feel are too high) are a gamble we’re willing to roll the dice on to have him back in class.
For my older son, he’ll be attending a specialized Toronto District School Board (TDSB) program where there are only 24 students in the entire school, and just six in his class. There’s actually more staff in his program than students. These really small ratios, and our trust in the masking and distancing protocols in place within the schools, make me feel pretty confident about my kids’ return to school without worrying too much.
The other part of my lack of fear of my kids’ return to school for in-person learning has to do with the fact that I fully believe it’s not a matter of “if” we’ll catch Covid, it’s “when.” This doesn’t mean that our family has let up on preventative measures — our adults are fully vaccinated, we only socialize with fully vaccinated people, we still mask and physically distance when out and about, and practice hand hygiene — but I have come to terms with the fact that Covid isn’t going anywhere and is something we’ll have to work our lives around, much like the common cold. We’re expecting the best, but we’re prepared for the worst. When you look at the numbers, it’s still only a relatively small percentage of people who are severely affected by Covid, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed we’re not one of the small minority who are severely impacted. Like everything in life, there’s a risk analysis to be done, and only so much we can control. I’ve made peace that I may catch Covid, and it could be bad.
Even though I’m not scared about my kids’ return to school this fall, I’m still furious about the lack of planning by the Ontario government, especially given how much time they’ve had to prepare for September. I’m angry at how their inaction is leaving so many feeling scared and stuck. Things didn’t have to be this way — we could have been so much more prepared with improved ventilation, outdoor learning environments, and smaller class sizes, if only our governments had committed to listening to science and making the investment in education.
No matter what your decision about your kids’ return to school this fall, I hope you know you’ve made the best choice for your family, and I wish you a safe and healthy school year. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed for positive outcomes.