By Angela Kennedy
Covid-19 Pandemic has forced us to confront a new reality.
For students, teachers and parents, this reality is complex and demands our attention to many details.
I am a 20-year trustee with the Toronto Catholic District School Board and mother to 7 sons and 8 grandchildren.
I am also a registered nurse.
I have worked to achieve balance at the intersection of healthcare, education and family for my entire career.
At the July 23 board meeting, I voted in favour of a return to full day learning in September, because I believe this important decision must be based upon the principles of physical safety, emotional and spiritual wellness, kindness and compassion.
In my view, any hybrid or adapted school-day model has potential to negatively affect many parents, especially those who are those who will be forced to choose between employment and educating their children.
Possible new scenarios for full-day return in September could include setting up a big tent in the school yard to allow for physical distancing; it could mean JK to grade 6 in our elementary schools and grade 6 to grade 10 in secondary schools. Grade 11 and grade 12 classes might be entirely online.
Full-day return, which is still being discussed and explored, might mean utilizing libraries, arenas, or empty business offices as extension of our schools.
Any of these scenarios will likely require masking at times, personal protective equipment, hiring extra staff for cleaning surfaces and screening, frequent hand washing breaks, individual hand sanitizers, and floor signage. It will mean no sports or assemblies for awhile. We may see plastic barriers.
We have to work together and be creative in our thinking now, because children need structure, certainty and consistency to be healthy and well; they have grown used to that structure in their school life. Students need their friends, their peers, and the socialization that comes with play and throughout the day.
At this point, students on the covid-19 recovery continuum need caring professionals to address their psychological, social, spiritual, and academic needs
Exhausted parents are ready for a manageable daily routine, and for the teaching experts to take back teaching the curriculum.
There is a way to protect the physical safety and emotional health and wellness of all while providing a safe return back to school.
Now is the time for our school communities to bring all parties together: parents, teachers, and students, in order to design the safest possible return to full time school in the fall.
We have the chance to change education delivery to a model that will outlast Covid-19. This new model must protect the physical and psychological well-being of children and parents, and contribute to resilient, emotionally well-balanced society of citizens of the future.
We have all of August to work together, get this plan done, and make this happen.
We can do this.