Alberta students prepare for heavier backpacks as they head back to school sans lockers

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Alberta students prepare for heavier backpacks as they head back to school without lockers
As part of back-to-school safety precautions, kids won't be able to use lockers or cubbies. As Morgan Black explains, it's weighing on students in more ways than one – Aug 31, 2020

There will be no locker access for Alberta students when they return to school this fall. Instead, students are asked to bring all personal belongings with them to class.

Emily and Abbigail De Rush tell Global News it might be a heavy school year — not academically, but physically.

“If you’re taking two core subjects, you’ll have textbooks, notebooks, lunch and your jackets. It’ll be a lot to carry,” Abbigail said.

The decision was made in an effort to keep kids from gathering in common spaces to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“I’d actually rather have backpacks right now, instead of lockers, because then you’re not as close to people,” said Grade 7 student Kalie Kesseler.

Read more: Alberta students will not be required to be distanced when seated in class: Dr. Deena Hinshaw

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The sisters’ mom, Brandy, said she has some concerns about backpack weight.

“I do think, as a parent, it will be an issue for some. Especially the little kids,” she said. “The social aspect of lockers is gone now too. Meeting at lockers, chatting. That’s also a big part of it too. It’s going to be an interesting first month.”

Read more: Edmonton schools say they’re as safe as they can be when classes resume next week

The sisters, in Grade 10 and Grade 12, say the situation is mostly “annoying” above anything else, though they are worried about adding winter gear into the mix.

“We will have a sore back,” Abbigail laughed. “But it will be OK.”

Click to play video: 'Easy ways to make sure your child keeps their mask on'
Easy ways to make sure your child keeps their mask on

Physiotherapist Mark Cameron said backpacks have often been seen as the culprit of back pain, but new research suggests that’s not the case.

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“In 2018, a group in Australia came out with a big study of 72,000 children and went through things like backpack weight, how long kids were wearing them and how they were wearing them,” Cameron said. “They came out with a big consensus that backpacks aren’t really causing that kind of problem.”

Cameron said usually an underlining factor is causing back pain instead.

“Back pain is a bit of a mystery still, but we think it’s things like weakness in other areas, overworking of the back or a strain. It can vary from person to person, but we don’t think it’s the backpacks.”

The physiotherapist, who works in a practice that specializes in kids’ physio, said that doesn’t discount the strain a heavier backpack could cause.

“Anytime you have to increase the load that someone has to take on a day-to-day basis, it’s something you want to watch,” he said. “I don’t think you can discount comfort. You want to make sure they are wearing their bag and comfortable with it.”

Cameron said the correct fit would include wearing both straps of the backpack, having the backpack rest two to five centimetres below the shoulder from the top of the bag and making sure the base is in line with the pelvis.

Read more: Back pain keeps many Canadians out of work — why don’t we take it seriously?

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He also suggested kids could distribute the weight a bit, by carrying a book or two in their hands and making sure the heavier things are in the bottom of their bag.

“I don’t think parents should be worried too much about back pain, but they should be mindful about kids getting back into high-gear [heading to the playground, starting to play sports again]. Things might start to feel sore or painful. It’s really important to make sure you don’t jump into things as hard as you can if you are feeling pain.”

Read more: Weekend COVID-19 cases ‘raise concerns’: Alberta’s Dr. Hinshaw

For now, the De Rush sisters are trying to take things slow and travel light.

“For now, I don’t think it will be too bad,” Emily said.

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