My kid wants to attend school without killing grandma and grandpa
Here’s the horrible reality parents are having to grapple with: there will be COVID-19 positive cases at their children’s school.
We know this because COVID-19 is spread by people even if they are asymptomatic. And in fact, kids are often asymptomatic or have “mild” cases (thank God!). In an ideal world parents would be able to test kids every morning before sending them to school. But this option isn’t available, which means there will be COVID-19 positive kids coming to school when the schools open this fall during what many predict will be a second wave of COVID-19.
For some families sending kids to in person schooling is a life or death decision and yet, the district’s Return to School Plan released this week provides zero flexibility for in home learning at our school.
In our case my son is supposed to start Kindergarten at the local French Immersion school. This program is oversubscribed every year and he was one of the lucky “lottery winners” and received a spot in the program (did I mention the school is two minutes away from our house?). Intake occurs in Kindergarten and Grade 1, but the program runs until Grade 7.
However, we live with my parents who are both vulnerable, with my dad in particular being one of the ones who probably wouldn’t survive COVID. We have been mostly self-isolating and taking significant precautions since we locked down in March. We are one of the families that wipes down all the groceries every week.
My husband and I have been thinking about the various options for the fall but were waiting for the official plan to see what schools would offer families like us. And there are many of us. Anyone with asthma, a heart issue or a host of other health concerns is looking at this virus as a life or death decision. These families should still be able to have their kids included at their local school.
When the district’s plan came out on Aug. 26 it basically says this: you must come to school if you are registered or you can enrol in one of the distance learning programs in the district. Leaving aside why the distance learning programs aren’t appealing for us, the major downside is he loses his spot. Some parents are being told they lose their spot for this year and go to the bottom of the waiting list for next. What a horrible position to put parents in. The school district is basically saying to kids with vulnerable family members or kids who are vulnerable themselves: you are not welcome here. That’s just mean.
And frankly it’s also short-sighted. It ignores the single biggest thing that will keep schools safe: long term and continued absenteeism for any students showing symptoms of illness.
Dr. Bonnie Henry has said people are to stay home for 10 days if they are sick with any respiratory issues. We all know kids get sick all the time. Any parent will tell you fevers, headache, and runny noses….oh the runny noses…. are ubiquitous. Last year our four year old was sick more days than he wasn’t.
So how do you keep schools safe during cold and flu season? By providing a seamless remote option so parents easily keep their sick kids at home. When I was sick as a kid my teacher would prepare a package of work for me to do at home to ensure I didn’t fall behind. Now if you were a teacher this fall, imagine having to do that for a dozen kids, in the same month, who are all away on slightly different days.
Having a seamless in home learning option for every classroom would also reduce numbers, something that every parent looking at a 60 person learning group is probably concerned about. For those children who do have to attend in person school because their parents are working (isn’t this the whole reason we are going back to school anyway?) well, wouldn’t those parents appreciate those of us who can keep their kids at home doing so? Wouldn’t they want their kids to be in a classroom of 12 kids, not 25?
But what about workload? I’ve heard the argument many times that providing a remote learning option for every classroom will be too much work for teachers. While I am very sympathetic to this (teachers are in the hero category along with health workers in my opinion) they will, in practice, have to support students who are self isolating anyway. When a half dozen or more kids are away at any given time they will need to send work home. They will also need to organize themselves accordingly by creating learning packages and emailing content to parents. Not to mention they, too, will likely find they need to be away from school if they have symptoms or at least until they get the results of a negative test back. It would make sense to plan ahead and arrange to get lessons and activities online where they can be easily accessed by substitute teachers and also by families.
This is the time to be courageous, to be innovative and to be forward-thinking. This pandemic is likely going to be with us for a couple of years. Creating a remote schooling from home option for every classroom will take the stress off teachers in the long term when kids are sick. It will keep in person numbers small and ensure that kids who are sick can stay at home to keep the other kids safe without falling behind. This planned and potentially long term and repeated absenteeism is what the entire Return to School Plan will depend upon to be successful.
Because if we can’t get this part right, we will likely have to close up schools again, and I don’t even want to think about what will happen to grandma and grandpa.