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Bradford parents react to kids going back to school on Monday

'The risk of my children contracting the new variant and being seriously ill is far less likely than the continuing negative implications of not being in school," says Bradford mom
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Summer is excited to head back fo in person learning on Monday

Local parents have mixed feelings about sending the kids back to school on Monday, as announced by Ontario's Education Minister Stephen Lecce on Wednesday. 

Upon return, students and staff will each receive two rapid test kits to take home and use if they become symptomatic. The initial supply has 3.9 million rapid antigen tests available for schools.

Parents will no longer be notified about a positive case in their child's classroom. Instead, schools will be reporting all absences to local health units. When a school meets a threshold of 30-per-cent absenteeism, a joint letter will be sent to the school community with guidance. If a student is absent, it doesn't necessarily mean it's due to COVID. N95 masks will also be supplied for school and childcare staff, and three-ply masks for students.

After two weeks of online learning, Bradford's Angelina Sergio is happy to be sending her two kids back to class. 

"While we are all in the same storm, we are not all in the same boat," she said. "Some (students) are better equipped with learning online and not falling behind, others are not."

She says while some families have the luxury of the parents being able to work from home, others do not, which can have a negative effect on their children's learning.

Sergio's kids are in Grade 5 and Grade 7. She and her husband were lucky to be able to juggle their schedules, taking turns working from home to be able to over the past few weeks. 

"My children were lucky and were able to deal with online schooling as they had great teachers who were very helpful," she said. "But it definitely didn't mean they liked it. They were definitely not as engaged in class discussions as I know would be in class."

She knows some may not be happy or comfortable with the return to in-person learning, but says no decision will ever make everyone happy.

"The reality is children need education and in-person learning and while it's not considered an essential service, it should be," she said.

Bradford mom Cassidy Hilliard is also relieved to see her two kids going back to in-person learning next week. 

"For myself, the risk of my children contracting the new variant and being seriously ill is far less likely than the continuing negative implications of not being in school," she said. 

She says school is about more than just academics. 

"For some families, schools are where their kids eat healthier, have access to the internet and other vital resources," she said. 

She believes as long as the community can work together to keep children safe, including the wearing of masks and staying home when sick, kids should be able to safely remain in class. 

"When everyone does their part, the whole community wins, especially the children and their cognitive, emotional, physical and behavioural development," she said.

Kamila Wojciechowska says the last two weeks have been "awful" trying to work from home while doing online school with her four and seven-year-old. 

"They are too young to stay focused on a computer screen for eight hours," she said. 

She feels guilty about not being able to help them as much as she can during the day because she is working. 

"All I do is yell at them to be quiet or get back to their computer. It's so unfair to them...makes me want to cry at night what an awful mom I am," she said. "None of this is their fault yet they are suffering so much."

Alana Gerring-Smith is a teacher who has been juggling her own classroom online as well as her kids'. Her children are eight, 11 and 14. She is very happy to be returning to class on Monday. 

"I feel very strongly that kids should be in school and I should be at work," she said. "Working and learning from home is not sustainable anymore."

She argues that most people have already been vaccinated, and are following the rules, "yet we still feel like our lives are restricted and controlled." 

"We need to learn to live with this virus. It's not going anywhere," she said. 

Although Gerring-Smith is glad for schools to be opening again, she thinks more needs to be done to ensure a safe return for students and staff.

"This has been going on for two years and it's disappointing that our province still can't figure out how to manage it," she said. "Parents should absolutely be questioning Ford's lack of regard for the safety of kids and how quickly his solution is to just close schools."

Miranda Jones (name changed due to privacy concerns)  is unsure what she will do with her seven-year-old daughter come Monday. She would ideally like to keep her at home. 

"My concern is that if this is as transmissible as it is reported, then many supply teachers will be needed. I think my child would be better with virtual learning from her current teacher who knows her strengths, weaknesses and learning style, as opposed to the train of supply teachers that may be waiting for her in-person when teachers face the same staffing shortages other areas are facing," said Jones. 

Yesterday, both the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board and Simcoe County District School Board said they would both be looking into short-term remote learning options for those not yet comfortable to go back to in-person learning. 

Bradford dad of four David Pullara is reluctantly sending his kids back to school on Monday. 

"Parents are being asked to choose between two bad options; no parent wants to see their kids get sick, but we also don't want to watch their mental health suffer because they can't be with their friends or have them fall so behind in school that it has longer-term implications on their future," he said. 

He commended teachers' "herculean efforts" over the course of the past two years, getting students through online learning, acknowledging how difficult it can be. 

"I certainly feel for the teachers, many of whom are parents themselves, who are walking into an environment where the risk of them getting infected is unavoidably high."

One DECE (Designated Early Childhood Educator), 'Mary Jane', spoke to BradfordToday, but didn't want to give her real name for privacy reasons, and says she will not be going back to work on Monday, and using her sick days. 

Jane says working in a Kindergarten classroom has been a "nightmare", as kids are not experiencing their first years of school as they should be. 

"It's very basic care at best," she said. 

She says most of the kids in her class don't wear their masks properly, and the level of cleanliness and sanitization is questionable. 

"Last year, when we were days away from re-opening we didn't even know what we were using to clean the toys," she said. 

"How can a small custodial staff manage the cleanliness of an entire building?" she questioned. "The schools, through the direction of Mr. Lecce have no idea what they're doing in this respect (sanitization/cleaning)," she said. 

Jane has one child of her own who attends a local daycare but will be staying home with her until the omicron situation settles down in the community. 

"I am not prepared to risk my family's health and safety over mental health," she said. "If a family member dies due to COVID or needs to be away from family in a hospital that would be much worse on a child's mental health."


Natasha Philpott

About the Author: Natasha Philpott

Natasha is the Community Editor for BradfordToday and InnisfilToday. She graduated from the Media Studies program at The University of Guelph-Humber. She lives in Bradford with her husband, two boys and two cats.
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