Many unknowns in going back to school

Weyburn Review editorial

As mid-August approaches, the minds of most families with children is on the return of school classes as of Sept. 1 in both the Southeast Cornerstone and Holy Family school divisions.

This isn’t unusual, as in most years parents are fretting about buying all the items on the school class supply lists  at this time of year — but this year is not exactly normal, and these are not normal circumstances.

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For one thing, the black clouds of the COVID-19 pandemic are hanging over everything, and was the reason classes were suspended on March 20.

Some students took learning online, but many did not, or else they only took partial classes on their computers if they were able, but consider this: students will have been out for five months by the time they go back to school again.

Other provinces released their back-to-school plans, taking into consideration the public health requirements due to COVID, and Saskatchewan finally followed suit after the August long weekend with their own plan.

The plan has been roundly criticized by many people, with the NDP opposition calling it “the worst plan in Canada” because it apparently doesn’t go far enough.

The school plan has been getting tweaks in the days since it was released, and will continue to be tweaked up until school starts, with one of the big issues being whether masks should be worn and by whom, and the fact children aren’t very good about physical distancing.

There are a variety of opinions about whether these are even important issues, but the fact is, COVID-19 is still with us and isn’t going away anytime soon.

The fact also is, this generation of children could be irreparably harmed in many ways if they don’t go to school, in academic ways, and in terms of children’s mental health and their normal development and growth as young people.

They need to be back in class and learning and interacting with others. So the question that remains is, how do they do that if they are always having to worry about being six feet apart from each other? This is something they will have to work out, and the staff of the schools also.

The staff, both teaching and non-teaching, are perhaps being put under the most pressure of anybody. They have to worry about whether their children are safe, if they themselves are safe, whether their activities are risky or have the potential for harm — and for teachers, they also have to worry about how to catch up after many of their kids have been away for the last five months. The return to classes is not going to be easy for anyone, including the children. Some will be anxious to be back with their friends, others will be anxious about their health. We all need to be supportive of the families, and the staff of schools, because nobody really knows how this is all going to work out.