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Parents grappling with decision to send kids back to school or keep them home


After Tuesday’s confirmation by the government that in-person learning will resume on Monday, parents are making the difficult decision of whether their kids should return to class.

“Just kind of hoping we're making the right choice. And really at this point crossing our fingers,” says Angela Archer, who has had family members contract and die from the virus.

When Premier Doug Ford announced schools would transition to virtual learning in early January amid what he described was "a coming tsumnami of COVID cases," few expected schools to resume on the January 17 as planned.

Lesley Sinclair is the mother of a 17-year-old high school student and is also questioning the decision.

“I just don't think this is a good idea to be going back.”

But experts say the lack of in-class time has been detrimental for students.

Emma Duerden from Western University has been studying the effects of extra screen time on children aged six to 12 since the beginning of the first wave.

“Kids aren't exercising, they're not interacting really with other people. You know, those types of behaviors which we know are kind of maladaptive for for healthy child development and learning.”

But with the Omicron wave still showing signs of growth and with increasing hospitalizations, some parents are making the choice for their kids to remain home.

“Nothing is consistent and our numbers are still so crazy. I feel I just need to do what is best for my family at this time. Right now we have opted not to return in person on Monday,” Archer says.

For her the decision is based on the fact they have vulnerable people living in the home, as well as due to the lack of testing and contact tracing.

A five-months-pregnant Sinclair would like to do the same with her daughter, who already contracted the virus before Christmas.

“Ao it's hard having a 17-year-old who wants to advocate. She genuinely wants to be with her friends in school, but here I am, like very much not wanting her to be.”

Parents are not alone with the nervous feelings of a return next week.

“I got a text earlier today from one of our members who said. 'You know, I'm always happy to go back to school, but I'm extremely nervous,'” says Craig Smith, Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario - Thames Valley local president.

Smith says in class is where teachers do their best work, but only if the right measures are in place to keep them there.

“We know leading up to Christmas there was a real problem, a real challenge to get occasional teachers into schools to cover, and so if it is not Omicron that will cause the pivot back to virtual learning, it’ll simply be the staffing.”

The return to school will bring mixed reactions, with some hoping the government repeats a retreat on this decision later in the week. Top Stories

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