As the province looks at what back to school means for students in the fall, many parents — especially mothers — seem eager to send students back to class.
In June, Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced three possible plans for getting kids back to class amid the continued coronavirus pandemic. His plans include a full return to in-school learning, a scenario where students remain at home with online learning, and a hybrid model, which Lecce said is the most likely option.
According to a survey sent out by the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB), most parents are in favour of sending their children back to school in September. According to the voluntary survey, two-thirds of the 43,0000 families who responded would be willing to send their children back to school full time with enhanced health protocols.
School boards throughout the province are being asked to prepare proposals based on each scenario, but it’s the hybrid model that has many parents worried. The TVDSB survey showed more than half of elementary parents said childcare would be an issue if students were learning online all or some of the time.
Mother-of-two Amanda Bishop works as a receptionist at a medical clinic, but since the province announced that kids would not return to school following in March break, she has had to take a leave of absence from work.
“Once COVID hit, I had to become not only their mother but their teacher, their educator, their moderator It became really overwhelming.”
Her twin boys just finished their first year of kindergarten, but the possibility of them having to continue learning online is not a welcome idea.
“If they do a hybrid where it’s half online, half in school. Well, I’m sorry, that doesn’t work for kindergarteners. That maybe works for the older ages, but not so much the kindergarteners.”
To add to the stress, Bishop says her leave of absence had ended, and she has had to reduce her work down to part-time as they look to summer care, but the thought of not having somewhere to send her boys full time in September won’t go well.
“I know that I would have to quit my job because I know that with my luck, one of the twins will go on this day, and the other twin will go on that day.”
The TVDSB survey said more then two-thirds were in support of returning to school with smaller class sizes and alternate days or weeks.
According to a recent Statistics Canada report, men are closer to pre-shutdown employment levels than women as of June. The report shows employment levels among men had recovered 92.3 per cent compared to women, which was only at 89.2 per cent.
The numbers could be linked to the fact many women are the ones staying home with the kids during the pandemic.
Kathy Horton agrees. The mother of two said she and many of her female friends have been the ones primarily staying home to take care of the children, which has added stress having to also act as a teacher.
Horton is some mom that’s hoping they make an “all or nothing” decision when it comes to schools. Horton’s twins just finished Grade 6 in the London District Catholic School Board.
“The thought of no full-time school come September is just as stressful because I like most parents have no options, I don’t have grandparents at home to watch my kids, and I don’t have any other option besides school all day.”
Since the pandemic started, Hortons says teacher her 11-year-olds at home has not been easy. She says if schools only go back part-time, she’s worried about who will help them with their online learning if they have to go into daycare part-time.
Horton says if it does come down to a part-time model, she hopes the government will step up and support parents who are afraid of losing their jobs if they have to stay home part-time to take care of their children.
“I imagine a lot of parents feel the same way that you will lose your job because you have to take care of their kids,” she said.
The Ministry of Education has said that returning to school will not be mandatory if parents have concerns for their children and that school boards are required to continue to provide online learning at home.
“We understand families have difficult decisions to make – there’s no perfect scenario as long as COVID-19 is a factor,” said TVDSB Director of Education Mark Fisher. “Nothing replaces the value of face-to-face learning in the classroom, but we understand some parents will continue to have concerns.”