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Summer of uncertainty as families prepare for school in fall
LONDON, ONT. -- It’s going to be a summer of uncertainty for families with school aged children, at least when it comes to planning for the fall term.
It’s the new reality parents are faced with as they begin making plans for how to juggle their own jobs with the schooling requirements of their children.
Parent Jamie Doxtator has a nine-year-old daughter headed for grade five, and two more daughters not yet old enough for school.
He’d like to start planning but says all his family can do is anxiously await for the official word.
“Right now we’re not sure if her school could be every other week and my wife and I both work full time jobs. I’m assuming that everybody’s going to be in the same situation as us that we’re going to need child care for every other week. And if they don’t go back to school is our employers going to be flexible like they are right now.”
The provincial government has proposed three different scenarios for the school year, all dependent on how well Ontario fares in the battle against the COVID-19 virus.
It could be back to school as normal with physical distancing protocols in place, distance learning for all, or a blended model of both at-home and at-school.
The Thames Valley District School Board has sent a survey out to parents to find gauge which of the three models works for them.
Director of Education Mark Fisher says everything is on the table.
“We’re putting multiple scenarios together and within each scenario there’s going to be contingency plans. For instance, today we’re looking at cohorting students maximum 15. Our buses usually run at 65 to 70 have to be 25 riders or less. So these are the rules today. The rules a month from now might be quite different and we just have to pivot basically on a dime.”
The only thing families can count on is that they’re going to have to be prepared for last-minute planning.
Decisions on the fall year won’t come down until at least August, and it will be the province and local health officials who make the call.
Linda Staudt, the director of education for the London District Catholic School Board, says never mind a second wave, but even a single case of the virus can force quick changes.
“We’re going to have to be nimble so should we at any point unfortunately land with a confirmed case in one of our buildings, then likely that building, that school, will go to full time remote learning, as we just experienced.”
Both boards have said that if they end up with a blended model they will try to have children in the same families attend school on the same days, but it’s no guarantee.