Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The province of Ontario is just four weeks away from welcoming back their two million students who have been away from their classrooms since March.
The return to school this year is coupled with parents across the province having to make decisions on whether to let their children go back to in-person classes or resume with the online delivery system.
Schools across Ontario have transferred to online delivery system when the province ordered the closure of school in March because of COVID-19.
Allison Dresen is a single mother to two children who go to school. Her son is going to grade 11 and her daughter is going to grade 2.
She said she chose to let her children go back to school because it was hard to manage online school while having to work from home.
“I really struggled having the kids at home because I was also working from home,” Dresen said. “My son really struggled with the technology that the school provided. Sometime it would not work. He couldn’t access his assignments. I’m a single mother and I don’t have the option to stay home with my kids.”
This announcement also said non-medical masks will be mandatory for students from grades 4 to 12, while students in kindergarten to grade 3 are encouraged to wear it in common spaces, without formal obligation.
Elementary school students from kindergarten to grade 8 will return to the usual five days per week with a recess, a lunch break and no change in class sizes.
Dresen said since she expected the implementation of the mask wearing policy for students, she began encouraging her children to wear them.
“Since June when my kids were out with me I made sure they wore masks,” Dresen said. “I assumed this would happen so I wanted them to be comfortable already. My son has so issue wearing masks. My daughter is only seven so she struggles sometimes. I know it is not mandatory for her, but I am going to encourage her to wear it when she can.”
In light of that, the government said that a new health monitoring system will be established through a partnership between the ministries of health and education, the school boards and the local public health unit to monitor and respond to reports of COVID-19 symptoms.
Upon the return to classroom, the government of Ontario also said if a student or a staff member tests positive for COVID-19, they will be contacted by their health unit and proper safety procedures will be followed.
According to the government’s announce, students or staff member who develop COVID-19 symptoms will immediately be separated from others.
Dresen said if there is a suspected case at the schools her children attend, she will keep them home and isolate with them.
However, she said her concern is is going to be those families that have no option but to send their kids to school if they are not well.
In preparation for the new school year, Dresen said she is always telling her children to physical distance and maintain hand hygiene.
“I have always enforced – even before the pandemic – the respect of bodies and respect of people’s space, keeping your hands to yourself and not sharing things,” Dresen said. Those were always things I explored with my kids.”
The government of Ontario also announced $309 million dollars in new funding to assist schools across the province to safely reopen. Included in that funding is a dedicated budget of $60 million in masks, $25 on cleaning supplies, $10 million for health and safety training, $10 million for students with special needs and $80 million for funding additional staff.