‘Why is no one talking to us?’: Toronto high school student shares concerns about returning to class

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WATCH ABOVE: A Toronto high school student has reached out to Global News to share her thoughts on what a safe and reasonable back to school plan should look like. As Caryn Lieberman reports, she wants her voice heard and has started a petition online to get others on board – Sep 14, 2020

Feeling ‘disheartened’ about her return to class, Toronto high school student Alice Paradis reached out to Global News.

“Teachers, parents and superintendents were all spoken to, but our voice was shockingly left out,” she wrote in an email.

So Global News sat down with Paradis.

“Why isn’t the TDSB, why isn’t Minister Lecce, why is no one talking to us?” she asked.

Read more: Virtual school for TDSB elementary students delayed to Sept. 17

Paradis started an online petition called Students deserve better – demand the TDSB change its return to high school plan.

“The TDSB has recently introduced its plan for high school this upcoming fall in response to COVID 19. The plan is overly complicated and confusing. Students and parents alike are shocked at how difficult it is to understand,” the petition said while going on to reference several issues.

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“The expectation that students can focus on one course for 3.75 hours, starting at 8:45 in the morning, the expectation that students will be able to regulate ‘independent learning at home’ with family and other interruptions, and the elimination of clubs, groups, and contact with friends and peers.”

Read more: Start of academic year delayed for most TDSB high school students

The 17-year-old is entering Grade 12 at Bloor Collegiate Institute and is looking forward to attending university.

“I can drive next year, I’m going to be able to vote, but no one has asked me, ‘Hey, how do you feel about this? What are your suggestions?” she said.

Paradis said she wants people to hear a high school student’s perspective about what the last six months have been like.

“To be ripped out of school in a matter of days, going from taking full classes and seeing my friends every day … to nothing was difficult and I think we’ve shown that student mental health has been affected by the added stress of the global pandemic,” she said.

“The students that are coming back this September are not the same students that left last March.”

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READMORE: 70% of parents who responded to TDSB elementary registration choose in-person option

Paradis said she has some thoughts on how the back to school plan for secondary students could be improved.

“There could be better solutions that could make it easier for us and could make it feel like the final year of high school and your big celebratory year and they’re not doing that,” she said.

A plan suggested by Paradis is that the first cohort of high school students should attend on Mondays and Tuesdays, and spend Wednesday disinfecting before the second cohort of students return on Thursdays and Fridays. She has other thoughts as well.

“There’s no time to go the library, there’s no time to go to guidance, there’s no time to speak to the social worker because you have to leave the building right after your first class … what they’re doing is detrimental to student mental health,” she said.

Paradis said she would have like to have been consulted about her education, so she contacted Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce, her local MPP as well as the school’s superintendent, principal, and others, but no one replied.

READ MORE: TDSB provides behind-the-scenes look at COVID-19 school preparations

“Basically crickets,” she said.

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“They’ve had six months to plan. I mean the minute we were taken out of school they knew we were going to have to go back.”

Paradis said her message to Minister Stephen Lecce is a simple one.

“I understand why talking to elementary students isn’t really feasible — they’re kids — but we’re not kids,” she said.

“You need to consult us about our education and you need to get our ideas and our opinions and maybe they won’t work … But it would mean a lot if you would just ask us, ‘Hey, how do you feel?’ Why is no one asking us?”

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