As COVID-19 cases rise across Canada and kids get ready to head back to school, parents share their concerns with regulations in the classrooms and the safety of their children.
Like all students across the country, Jack and Elliott Hamm are getting ready to return to their school in Edmonton with few regulations and no vaccinations.
Their mother, Lisa Hamm, says she is concerned but has faith in teachers and the school system to keep the children safe.
“I just think that there’s a bit more of a loose feeling this year. Like a little bit less fear and just more preparation, more readiness and a bit more of an ease,” said Hamm.
Adults are getting vaccinated, which is an important step towards ending the spread of the virus.
However, that does not mean kids are in the clear, according to Saskatchewan College of Medicine Epidemiologist Nazeem Muhajarine.
“If you look back to a year ago, end of August 2020, we were looking at numbers that were probably in the order of about 40 times fewer than what we are seeing this week,” said Muhajarine.
British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec and Ontario all have mask rules for certain grades.
British Columbia Minister of Education Jennifer Whiteside says what is different about this year compared to last is that now the majority of adults, including teachers, are vaccinated.
This is in comparison to last year when school started months before the vaccine rollout began in Canada.
“We are not in the same situation this year as we were heading into last September because we now have safe and effective vaccines that we know protect us from COVID,” said Whiteside.
However, no province has an across-the-board mask mandate for children, which Muhajarine expects to be a big challenge entering the school year.
“I think we have to really do all of the things we were doing a year ago in terms of keeping our kids safe. In fact, I would say we need to do even better,” said Muhajarine.
Mother of four Kristie Edwardson says having to pay attention to the constantly changing mandates has her feeling burnt out.
“Just trying to keep up with the updates and trying to prepare my children mentally of what’s going to be happening is, it’s hard some days. You know, we all have good days and bad days but I’m tired.”
She adds that having kids back in school is a step towards normal, pre-pandemic life, but that kids may need some more protection to truly stay safe from COVID-19.
“I worry just because more so with my children, my one child is in elementary school because he can’t get the vaccine. And we’re hearing about children that are getting COVID and this new variant and they’re getting sick, really sick,” said Edwardson.
Hamm and her sons agree that everyone wants to get back to normal, but the key is to do it safely.
“It’s disappointing that we’re there again, but I think it is the right call to take masking precautions and sanitation and doing all that,” said Hamm.
Kids will be back in school starting Monday.