Back-to-school decisions have never been as complex as the ones facing parents and guardians this fall.
With no vaccine and concern about a second wave of the pandemic arriving in late fall, parents spent much of the summer agonizing about whether to send their children back to school, enrol them in e-learning or home-school them this year.
Since Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce made their announcements on schools reopening, social media have been ablaze with parents of school-aged children asking for advice from other parents who are facing the same circumstances.
One common topic is the concept of “podding,” where a group of parents combine financial resources to hire a teacher to instruct their similarly-aged children either in person or online, at least for the fall and early winter. The teacher provides the expertise the parents don’t have, the cost is shared across several families, children are no longer being isolated in their family group, and the parents can wait out the growing pains that regular schools will experience in dealing with COVID-19.
Depending upon the size of the pod and the number of children involved, the costs would likely be in the range of $50-$100 a week per family.
Most local families, of course, cannot afford podding.
Three parents of multiple children agreed to be interviewed anonymously for this article. They all agreed that they had very few choices for the fall beyond sending their children back to school and hoping that the province and local schoolboards can keep their children safe.
“The Catholic board seems to be playing catch-up,” one parent observed. “Communication has been terrible, and rumours become Facebook facts when the board is silent. I have heard that our board is allowing cottagers to enroll their children locally rather than return to their urban homes. I have phoned the board office to find out if that is true and gotten no satisfaction,” she continued.
“I don’t have the competency to help my kids as they enter high school,” a second parent admitted, “and our internet is just not good enough to sustain the two of us working from home and our kids trying to do their schooling from home. I am terrified, as are my girlfriends.”
“I think Dougie (Premier Doug Ford) has gone for cheap rather than safe,” said a third parent, “but families like ours don’t have the choices that some do. One thing though, they won’t be riding the bus. Fifty kids on a bus … those are mobile petri dishes. I will drive them and pick them up.”