Back to School?

In the midst of what seems to be a never-ending pandemic, the demographic that may be hardest hit is the COVID-19 generation. These “warriors” from grades 1–12 are growing up during the world’s darkest disaster humanity has seen in more than 100 years. The COVID-19 generation is similar to the soldiers battling on the beaches of Normandy, but these students are battling an invisible virus war. These students aren’t growing up in the carefree ’80s or the free-love ’60s and ’70s. Their first kisses are being replaced by air kisses, while birthday parties and sleepovers may never be the same. So much for the innocence of childhood.

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Recently, schools in Quebec have reopened, but a few students have had to leave their classrooms because of COVID-19 symptoms. Schools will reopen in British Columbia on June 1 for those parents who wish to send their kids.

Many countries around the world have reopened their schools with new protocols in place, like staggered classes, temperature checks throughout the day, face masks, face shields and other health measures for this new reality. France recently reported 70 cases of COVID-19 in their schools after partially reopening a couple of weeks ago. On May 19, Ontario Premier Doug Ford told CTV: “The safety of our children is my top priority, and one thing I will never do is take unnecessary risks when it comes to our children. After careful consideration, after consulting with the health experts, it is clear, we cannot open schools at this time. I’m just not going to risk it. This wasn’t an easy decision to make, but it was the right decision.” The government also announced that private schools, licensed child-care centres and EarlyON programs will also stay closed.

Ontario Minister of Education Stephen Lecce indicated that he’ll be unveiling a game plan for starting up schools before the beginning of July. Lecce cautioned that “schools will not look the same” when students return to the classroom for the 2020–21 year.

Ford also revealed that overnight camps will be cancelled for this summer. However, there was some good news. Ford announced that if the numbers of new daily infections keep trending downward, day camps will be able to open, with strict public health measures in place. In the meantime, Ford noted that Ontario is working diligently to make certain that child-care centres can open once again during the second phase of the province’s reopening.

In addition, the controversial online learning program for public school students will continue until the end of this school year. As well, any students who were preparing to graduate from high school before schools shut down will be able to graduate. And every student in Ontario will receive a final report card.

The provincial government is continuing to invite educational workers who are not presently involved in online learning activities to volunteer at front-line facilities. The volunteer positions include custodial, maintenance and food preparation work, as well as children and youth service workers, social workers and educational assistants. The government also acknowledged that all volunteers will receive instruction and safety equipment. The volunteers shall be eligible for Ontario’s temporary pandemic pay and emergency child care.

Schools in Ontario have been closed since March 13.

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Myles Shane

Myles Shane