Many students across New Brunswick will be back in the classroom in one week with some COVID-19 restrictions in place.
Parents and children are digesting the guidelines listed in the province’s back-to-school plan.
It includes a return to pre-pandemic class sizes and full-time, in-class learning for high school students.
Masks must be worn on school buses and in common areas, but not in class.
“I think most parents are feeling fairly confident about how things are going to go,” said Jenna Morton, a parenting blogger and Moncton-area mother of three.
But Morton said she is worried “COVID fatigue” may set in among parents and children as the rules change ahead of another school year impacted by the pandemic.
“There are some people who are going to be a bit surprised that we still have some of the restrictions in place that we do in schools in New Brunswick given that we’re in green (phase of New Brunswick’s COVID-19 recovery plan),” Morton said.
“And I think that’s going to be a difficult conversation for some teachers and administrators to have to have and some parents to have to have with their kids.”
The province is also not bringing back extra pandemic cleaning staff. Older students and some teachers at younger grade levels will be asked to clean and sanitize some areas of the classroom.
Omar Khan, a University of Toronto professor of biomedical engineering, said that in lieu of extra cleaning, mask-wearing and frequent testing can help reduce possible COVID-19 outbreaks.
Still, he said the potential for multiple cases is there with the Delta variant present in New Brunswick and students under 12 still not eligible for vaccines.
“It’s OK to stay home if you don’t feel well,” Khan said. “That means you may be infected with Delta. You might not be, but it’s important to have that normalized. If you’re not feeling well, please stay home. It helps protect everyone. Also, it’s OK to get tested.”
Morton said children may have stress or anxiety about being back in the classroom. Those challenges, she said, can lead to changes in behaviour like shorter tempers and attempting to use excuses to avoid going to school.
She said it’s important for parents to watch for signs and be ready to act if the changes become more common.
“Try to have those deeper conversations and ask your kids how they’re feeling about all kinds of different things,” Morton said. “Because, a lot of times, our kids don’t have those words to say, ‘I’m anxious, I’m scared, I’m frustrated.’ They’re just going to react like kids.”