The province’s plan for returning to in-class learning for our children was released by the government to mixed reviews, with quite a few negative views expressed.
The Official Opposition NDP called this the “worst plan in Canada” for returning to school, while CUPE, which represents education support workers, likewise feels the plan falls short in many respects, including a lack of details in certain areas.
One of the primary criticisms of the government’s plan is that masks are not being made mandatory for students and staff, while Alberta did an about-face on Tuesday in their plan, making masks mandatory for Grades 4-12 students.
The critics fail to recognize that there is a flexibility in the plan which allows for different levels to be put in place on an as-needed basis. Level 2 of this plan allows for the Chief Medical Health Officer to require mask usage if the circumstances warrant it, such as the number of COVID cases for example.
Level 3 allows for a directive to reduce classroom capacity, such as establishing cohorts and hybrid learning models, and Level 4 would take the province back to suspending in-class learning and going back to the on-line learning that was used this past spring. Considering that on-line learning was optional for students, and many simply didn’t want to or couldn’t (because of a lack of adequate access to Internet and/or technology), this level should be avoided at all costs.
In terms of development of young children up through the middle years, in-class learning and interaction with teachers and classmates is absolutely crucial, and needs to be the standard.
If COVID-19 numbers should happen to explode and there is no other choice, then Level 4 might have to be instituted — but considering the harm this can do to children’s well-being and development, this measure should be used sparingly.
Whether masks should be used ought to be a decision made locally, at the school level, where teachers and administrators know the local students and the local community, and know whether it’s even needed.
This would be far better than just carte blanche making it a requirement. Think realistically about children, about how active they are and their requirements for social interaction, and consider if it’s even feasible to think they will make proper use of masks, or if they would do any good. If health concerns arise, there are options for dealing with children in those situations, such as if they get a bad cold.
The presence of COVID-19 will be a reality for a long time to come, so we as society and as a province and country need to find ways to live with it, and not destroy lives and the economy in the process.