With the rise in COVID-19 cases during the winter break, parents are questioning how comfortable they are that their children are going back to in-person learning,
Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that most schools across the province will be going back to in-person learning on Jan. 17 but many school boards were delayed a couple of days due to the enormous snow storm that hit the area.
It was also announced schools would be given N95 masks for the faculty and standalone HEPA filter units would be implemented to help protect students and staff from COVID-19, especially the Omicron variant. Even with these measures taking place, it was reported a month before that COVID cases would not be collected nor reported from schools unless 30 per cent of faculty and students were absent, leaving many parents asking the question if having their child inside a school was safe.
“Parents should not be concerned about their child’s safety,” says Isaiah Shafqat, Indigenous student trustee with the Toronto District School Board .
The measures that the TDSB and other boards are taking, such as the N95 masks and HEPA filters will help ensure the safety of students and facult, he says.
Shafqt is also vocal on how in-person learning helps students build social skills and keep them on top of their routines, which will help in the long run.
But even with the steps schools are taking, some parents still worry about the safety of their children.
“It is concerning that data is not getting reported on a daily basis, especially with cases at an all-time high and hospitals being crowded,” says Nancy Radich, a Danforth-area resident and mother of two.
Radich did like the measures school boards were taking in terms of masks and filters, but she said the data not being reported was her main reason of concern.
It has also been reported recently that school absence reports will be reported from now on without the reason of absence.
Prior to the winter break, Radich says she could have easily made a decision on whether sending her children to class was a good idea based on the cases being reported. But now with not knowing, it makes it a scary scenario if a child were to pass the virus to an older member of the family, she says, pointing out her husband’s mother does live with the family as well.
Others though feel it is the right decision to send their child back to school.
“I get the level of concern but our children have been deprived of in-person schooling for almost two years and it does take a huge toll on the mental aspect of things,” says Jared Minns, another Danforth resident and father of two.
Minns says many children were missing out on person-to-person interactions with teachers and other students, which may affect many children’s mental health. The virus is something not to be taken lightly but we are familiar with it and should not still deprive kids of the in-person experience. he says.