So the region’s two English school boards have decided to delay the start of the school year, while the school bus companies try to figure out how they’re going to transport those students who want to go back to school for in-person learning to school as safely and efficiently as possible. In the meantime, high school parents are still unsure what their kids are going to study during the two days a week they’re at school and what they are going to learn at home.
Confused? Me too. It’s at times like these that I’m glad my kids aren’t in public school anymore. Not that they don’t have their own problems in preparing to resume their studies “virtually” at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa respectively this fall.
The two school boards recently informed their high school teachers and students that they would remaining in class for 150 minutes in the morning and 150 minutes in the afternoon separated by a short lunch break. And, oh yeah, they will be required to wear a face mask for the entire 150 minutes they’re in class. Sounds like fun.
I’m not sure who I feel more sorry for, the students or the teachers. At least the students only have to attend in-person classes for five days every two weeks – alternating between Monday, Wednesday and Friday one week and Tuesday and Thursday the following week. In between, they are expected to attend online classes at a virtual academy during the days they’re at home.
The teachers who opt to instruct their students in-person have to experience this “new normal” five days a week.
At last report, roughly three quarters of parents in Ottawa have elected to send their kids back to school. The other 25 per cent have opted to keep their kids at home where they will attend the virtual academy five days a week – assuming they have access to a computer.
Many parents who are opting to keep their kids at home are doing it for health reasons. They are terrified that their kids could catch the coronavirus if they were to attend in-person classes at school no matter what precautions the boards are taking.
Even those parents who are allowing their teenage sons and daughters to go back to school are at the very least apprehensive of the possible implications.
Personally, I would have no problem sending my kids back to school for the simple reason that the virus is just not that prevalent in the east end. According to Ottawa Public Health, there are less than 200 active cases in the entire city and that’s after the province began to open things up. Our current rate of positive tests is still hovering around 0.5 per cent.
The reason why we are doing so well is our willingness to comply with the three key factors in limiting the spread of the virus – physical distancing, wearing face masks in public spaces and proper hygiene including washing our hands or using hand sanitizer on a regular basis.
Knowing that our numbers are so low, especially following the limited reopening of some business, I’m confident we won’t see the type of outbreaks in our schools that they are experiencing south of the border where in some states the number of positive tests is upwards of 20 per cent.
The province has released a protocol to deal with potential outbreaks at schools but it doesn’t nearly go far enough. It calls for a student showing symptoms to be removed from the class and kept for observation until a parent picks them up. It makes the decision to send an entire cohort home, or potentially close a school, up to the discretion of Ottawa Public Health.
What the protocol doesn’t do is require testing either of the student showing symp-toms or their classmates. Instead, it requires them to stay at home for at least 24 hours after their symptoms subside, even though there is scientific proof that someone with COVID can still be contagious up to four days after they no longer or experiencing symptoms. That’s nuts.
In the event that a student does start exhibiting symptoms, they should be tested immediately, and if they test positive, the school should be closed for 14 days and the students kept under observation by their families. Measures should be put in place to still allow those students to carry out there studies virtually while they are in self-quarantine.
The fact that the province isn’t calling for students exhibiting symptoms to be tested is a major red flag and is further proof that the province either doesn’t have enough tests or doesn’t have the capacity to process them. That’s not good and should be worrisome to everyone involved.
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