'Happy dance' combined with hesitation as kids return to school
A snowstorm delayed the return to schools for thousands of students in the region, but in London most made it to class Monday.
It was the first day back after a post-Christmas break delay caused by the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
Outside Sir Issac Brock Public School in London’s west end, Grade 3 student Emmaleigh Fair was literally doing a happy dance on some ice.
Her father Matthew Fair felt confident sending her back after two weeks of online learning.
“We’re pretty happy it’s going in the right direction here. She needs a social setting. I find most kids do,” he told CTV News London.
Parent Erica Swanton was a bit more hesitant after she and some others in her family battled Omicron over the holidays.
“The first couple of days were tough,” she said.
Still, she opted to return her son Aidan to class.
“He’s excited to be back. He’s missed all his friends, so I think it will be OK.”
Parent Erica Swanton is seen shortly after dropping of her son, a Grade 2 student at Sir Issac Brock Public School in London, Ont., Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (Sean Irvine / CTV News)
The return to class comes with some added precautions. At Riverside Public School, in the city’s west end, Grade 2 teacher Marcy Dilamarter reminded students about protocols.
“We haven’t been together for a month, and it’s like we were together last week. They came in, knew what they were doing, they remember the different protocols we have when we are dealing with what we are dealing with right now.”
But there are new tools available to educators to protect themselves and their students from the virus.
They include available N95 masks for teachers and available three-ply masks for kids.
In addition, more HEPA air filters are in place within the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB).
But its director, Mark Fisher, concedes there are still not enough of them to accommodate every classroom.
“We have 1,500 HEPA units currently. They are distributed to every single kindergarten class in the district, every self-contained special education class, and every school that has passive ventilation. And our next layer will be those classes where there are medically-approved mask exemptions.”
For now, class spacing remains the same.
Enough comfort for most, but not all parents.
Riverside Principal Kristin Lynds has been taking calls from parents opting to keep their kids at home.
“We’re happy there is an option for them to do a short-term virtual learning program and so those parents are able to reach out and speak to me as the principal.”
But as most opt to send their kids back, Lynds says there is one thing every educator is noticing.
“Oh, we can see them smiling, even with the mask on. We can see it in their eyes and feel their energy.”
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