Canadá/Aug 31, 2020/ by
For tens of thousands of students enrolled in Quebec’s English school boards, Monday marks the start of the school year, and brings with it a set of emotions running from excitement to worry to uncertainty for parents, teachers and kids alike.
The uncertainty, at least, may be eased a bit by the fact that most students in the French system returned last week, providing a preview of some of the challenges the education system must contend with during a pandemic.
The Eastern Shores School Board — the largest English school board by territory but smallest by population — also resumed classes last Thursday.
Its director-general, Hugh Wood, said some students had returned to class briefly in the spring, but others had not been back since the province shut classes down on March 13.
“There is the sense of the unknown” for teachers, students, and parents, Wood said. “As they were coming in, they were a little bit apprehensive, a little bit nervous.”
Monday will be the first time all three of Nicola Klein’s children go to school — one in kindergarten, one in Grade 1 and one in Grade 4. They are headed to Willingdon Elementary, an English Montreal School Board (EMSB) school in Notre-Dame-de-Grace.
Although Klein and her husband agreed the kids would all go, she said she’s not “totally confident” about that decision.
“I’m worried that they’re going to get sick or that they’re going to have to isolate because other kids in the school or in their class are sick,” she said.
“And I have this feeling that this year is going to be a continuous back and forth between the kids being allowed to be at school and being home for whatever reason, whether they have a cough or a sniffle or whatever.”
Klein is returning to university full-time this fall, and her husband works full time, so there is concern about how to handle kids being sent home.
She said she’s disappointed that the school and the EMSB did not show more creativity in responding to the conditions imposed by the pandemic.
“I had this sort of hope that maybe the schools were going to look to doing some outdoor learning or different things like that,” she said. “Setting up outdoor classrooms for the fall, just breaking it up so that there were fewer kids in the school at once or other ideas.”
“But I just feel like they didn’t really dig deep in what they’re doing.”
In Saint-Laurent, Lin Sok is ready for three of her four children to head back to school this week — two to LaurenHill Academy, one to Vincent Massey Collegiate, both in the EMSB. She has another who’s in university.
Sok’s husband is a teacher who was back in the classroom last week, and she said he’s concerned about crowded classrooms and the feasibility of it all.
But Sok, who works from home, said she can deal with her kids if they’re sent home or fall ill.
“If they’re going to get sick, they’re going to get sick,” she said stoically.
She said her biggest worry is public transportation — a necessary part of all three kids’ daily journeys.
Buses and metros will get more crowded, she fears, and hygiene measures won’t be easy to follow.
Still, she said, it’s time to go back to school.
“Life has to go on,” she said.