Students will not be returning to in-class learning this week; Instead, they are back online from home after the Ford Government shut down schools across the province due to record-breaking Covid-19 cases.
Covid-19 cases continued to soar into the 4,000s during the ‘April break'.
"We are seeing a rapidly deteriorating situation with a record number of COVID cases and hospital admissions threatening to overwhelm our health care system," stated Premier Ford in a recent news conference. “We will keep a constant eye on the data, on case numbers, hospitals capacities and ICU admissions to determine when we can get kids back in the classrooms… I want nothing more than to be able to open the schools up again as soon as possible, but we all need to work together right now to get the community spread under control… folks, that’s how we get the schools open… this was not an easy decision, but it was the right decision.”
Although there was no mention of when children would return to in-class learning, Ford did stipulate that childcare facilities would remain open for non-school-aged children.
Millions of parents were once again left scrambling last minute to figure out how to juggle work while having kids at home during the third wave of the pandemic.
“I am so against this lockdown of our schools and the entire province,” expressed Michael Lotter, a Bradford father who has two children in grades 6 and 9. “We are only being told half the information… I am all for following science and making evidence-based decisions, however, when the information is only partly interpreted, we end up with decisions which do not solve the problem.”
Lotter believes the asymptomatic testing is "flawed" and that the public continues to receive "mixed messages from all levels of government" and that no one is providing honest answers. He stresses the importance of kids needing social interactions now more than ever.
“Many learn better in the school environment and these "precautions" are stopping them from succeeding, or in the very least, putting them on a back footing,” states Lotter. “We buckle down on Monday and follow what we have to do. There are things in place to try and keep the kids' learning going. We are fortunate enough to have access to computers, but I feel for those who now have to try and get more resources again.”
The province has been under a Stay-at-Home order since April 8, mandating everyone remain indoors unless for essential reasons. As Ontario’s health care facilities continue to threaten capacity levels, restrictions on the public become tighter and tighter, limiting where children can go outside of their homes.
“This announcement puts parents who both leave the house to a physical location in an impossible spot for Monday,” shares another Bradford father, Jason Laderoute. “This means one of us has to stay home and watch the kids and school them. We need two incomes to survive so, we are going to sink.”
Laderoute has two children, one in grade 3 and another in junior kindergarten. He questions why childcare facilities are allowed open only for non-school-aged children noting virtual learning does not always work for younger children.
“Kids this small not only have to be watched, but cannot do online schooling unassisted,” emphasizes Laderoute. “What are we doing Monday? No idea!”
Local mother of three children, Najia Noorulain Naqvi, shares that although her two older kids are okay with online schooling, her youngest in senior kindergarten on the autism spectrum is struggling.
“He was miserable the last time schools were closed,” explains Noorulain Naqvi. “School is his happy place. He loves to be among his peers in class, his EA and his teacher. Online learning is not for him. I am so worried about him and scared that it might regress him in so many ways… he was achieving small milestones every week at school and now that environment has been taken away from him.”
Noorulain Naqvi adds that her two teens also miss the socialization aspect with their peers despite being able to adapt to online learning modes.
Premier Ford stressed that provisions would be made for continued in-person support for students with special education needs that cannot be accommodated through remote learning, and education workers who provide direct support to students with special education needs across the province will be eligible for vaccine prioritization and can call the provincial vaccine booking line at 1‑833‑943‑3900.
As cases continue to rise and hospitalizations increase, the Ford Government maintains the importance of mask-wearing in public and social distancing.
"As the fight against this third wave of the pandemic continues, everyone must continue following all public health and workplace safety measures and stay at home to prevent further transmission of the virus, so we can once again resume in-person learning in our schools,” said Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health in a recent press conference.
For updates on Ontario’s Covid-19 vaccines, visit here.