Realistically speaking, it would have been completely unreasonable to expect any back-to-school plan put forward by the Ontario government was going to be universally applauded.
Ontarians are so divided on just about any issue imaginable, it only stands to reason a major decision involving kids would be impossible to find middle ground.
Truth be told, there really is no ‘right’ answer. There’s simply too many unknowns in play in the young age of the Pandemic.
Certainly at one point or another, students are going to have to return to the classroom. Homeschooling is a viable option for some families, but for most with two working parents, it’s just not feasible. Remote learning, which was a hot button issue long before COVID-19, has its flaws as well. At the very least there’s simply not enough infrastructure in place to expect virtual learning to be a long-term, permanent solution at this point in time.
In Prince Edward County, schools will essentially operate in much the same way they were pre-pandemic, in that classes will run five days a week in typical class sizes. Secondary schools in larger cities will see a more staggered approach so as to limit the amount of kids in a class at one time.
The plan reflects the fact this region has been able to contain the virus and limit the community spread. In fact, up until Friday, no new cases of COVID-19 had been reported in Hastings-Prince Edward and the most recent came about from travel outside the region.
However, lack of actual cases doesn’t mean some parents are particularly in a hurry to send their precious angels into a classroom with 30 other kids either. Some have pointed out there’s more rules and regulations around going to a bar than there is in the Ontario government’s back-to-school plan. Physical distancing won’t work in a typical classroom. Expecting students to wear a mask at all times could be a tad optimistic.
And then there’s those in Grade 3 and younger who won’t be required to wear a mask at all. Is it really reasonable to ask a five-year-old to only interact with kids in their ‘cohort’? What about buses? Suffice to say, parents’ fears are warranted. That leads us to the question of ‘when’, as in ‘when is it safe to send our kids back to a classroom?’ If not September, then when?
If this pandemic has taught us anything it’s that this virus is here to stay. There’s never going to be a time when COVID-19 is completely eradicated from planet earth. There’s still hope for a vaccine in the next year or so, but a 100 per cent effective preventive measure or cure isn’t going to happen.
Keeping in mind that a spike in numbers is extremely possible following the long-weekend, Ontarians can at least find some comfort in the fact the province reported ‘only’ 116 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday. Then again, it’s fair to wonder if a big part of the steady decline can be linked to the fact schools have been closed for so long and kids, for the most part, have been isolated within their family unit. As it stands, parents have the option to keep their kids home this school year or trust in the projections and statistics run by the Ontario government that says the benefits outweigh the risks.
If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that we’re all hoping they get this one right.
Adam Prudhome is the editor of the Napanee Beaver
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