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