Parents of DDSB students make tough decision over return to school

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Parents of Durham District School Board students make tough decision
WATCH: While some parents are able to make remote learning work, others feel like they didn't have a choice in whether or not to send their kids back to school. – Aug 17, 2020

It’s been a few days now since Durham District School Board parents had to decide whether to send their kids back to school in the fall or keep them home.

While some are able to make remote learning work amid the coronavirus pandemic, others feel like they didn’t have a choice.

Melike Ceylan-Leamen says she and her husband have made a comfortable workspace for their son Ayden. He has serve epilepsy, making him immune-compromised.

The Grade 7 student will be one of about 13,500 DDSB students starting the school year at home.

“It was a very quick and easy decision. There was no way I was going to be sending him back to that environment without any safety protocols in place. My husband and I work from home, we work in IT, so it’s easy for me to be home and be able to help him with his studies,” said Ceylan-Leamen.

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Ceylan-Leamen says their daughter will also be learning remotely this year and in keeping both of their kids at home, they’re thinking about parents who can’t.

“Those parents that can be able to keep their kids home, we should keep them home and those parents should be able to send their kids into a safer environment. If the government and DDSB are not going to do that for us, then we as parents should take it upon ourselves to do that,” said Ceylan-Leamen.

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The DDSB says its priority is “the safety and well-being” of students and staff as they head back to school during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, and that it has planned for the school year with the help of public health officials and following Ministry of Education health and safety guidelines. It says protocols such as enhanced cleaning, physical distancing where possible and mandatory masks for students in certain grades will be in place.

Like Ceylan-Leamen, Tracy Foucault says she doesn’t feel comfortable sending her two daughters back to school in three weeks. But since she and her husband both work full-time, she says they have to send the kids back to class.

“Excruciating, it really was but at the end of the day, we didn’t feel like we had a choice,” said Foucault.

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“I could send my kids to Walmart and they’d achieve better social distancing there.”

She’s nervous for the September start as the girls enter grades 6 and 8 at Winchester Public School in Whitby.

“There’s a lot of unknowns this year as it is and now we’re sending our kids to a new school and we don’t know anyone, we don’t know what the protocols are going to be. So it’s going to be interesting to see the challenges ahead,” said Foucault.

Wednesday was the DDSB’s deadline for opting in or out of in-person learning. The DDSB says around 19 per cent of students have opted for remote education.

“We did a survey in July for parents just asking them what they were thinking and at that time it was about 20 per cent that said they would have opted into the virtual so it’s about the same,” said Georgette Davis, DDSB education superintendent.

While many parents felt the Aug. 12 deadline was early, the DDSB says there is some flexibility between now and the start of the school year for parents to change their minds.

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