Having spoken to a lot of parents, one is beginning to wonder at the different emotions attached to going back to school. At about this time in our household, all school supplies would have been purchased but at the moment, there seems to be no enthusiasm at school resumption. In an ideal world, there would be no need for chaos and drama, but life is no longer ideal and we can take nothing for granted.
Mike has two kids in the Edmonton Public school system. He is asthmatic. His son is also asthmatic. For him, there is no chance his children will return to school in its present form. He has opted for homeschooling. Both Tunrayo and Fatima have also taken the decision independently to home school or the online school system. Now is not the time to decry the disadvantages of homeschooling and how hard homeschooling was in March. Playing the teacher and parent is hard enough for subjects like Maths, Social Studies and Language Arts. But the other subjects come with confusion and much anxiety. Try doing an experiment, learning a language (French immersion) or attempting the rudimentaries of fine arts. In many ways, it might even be better to give up trying to educate your own kids yourself at home.
Wealthier parents can afford to employ a tutor and conveniently do homeschooling, but parents on the lower economic spectrum cannot afford such luxuries. It is them and their children who might end up suffering needlessly during this pandemic. Or not. But that is not the whole story, some parents are converting their fears into action. They are joining the fight against this ‘tyrannical public policy’. It is hard to see it from the government’s point of view. They may not want to spend $1 billion on education, but the NDP has argued that the money they put into the defunct pipeline project was nearly 5 billion dollars.
This is what is causing the confusion: the government wants all children to resume school in spite of the fact that cases of COVID 19 in Edmonton is increasing. They mandated face masks for children in grades 4- 12 but physical distance is an important component in the fight against the virus. Yet, most schools will be unable to implement social distancing.
Minister LaGrange said she had consulted with Dr Deena Hinshaw and all the relevant school boards. It turned out on Wednesday that Minister LaGrange met Jason Schilling, the President of the Alberta Teachers Association for the first time. It feels uncomfortable when you wonder who then was consulted on the back to school plan. Mr Schlling said he lacked confidence in Minister Lagrange’s back to school plan. He then asked the minister to consider pushing resumption to after Labour Day in an hour-long conversation. Minister LaGrange tweeted on Friday that the province would not be delaying the start of the school year.
The $1 billion plan put forth by the NDP includes increased funding to offset the costs of proper sanitation and personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff and students, rehiring of nearly 20,000 support staff. The largest portion of the NDP’s proposal — approximately $740 million — would go towards staffing and capping class sizes.
Can this government listen?
On Friday, 27 small rallies held across Alberta, at the rally organised in front of Mr Madu’s office, Rakhi Pancholi, NDP MLA for Edmonton- Whitemud summed up the mood by saying that UCP needs to start listening to parents, students and staff who are concerned.
These rallies took place across Alberta with 14 in Calgary including at offices of UCP MLAs such as Tyler Shandro in Calgary- Acadia. It is an incredibly important time to participate in democracy as it seems that the government can do a better job listening and than showing everyone by their actions that the future is important. Anxieties are obvious as there is a lack of policy on ventilation, school busses, sanitation and staffing.
The Last Word
At the moment, the uncertainties about Back to School are real in Alberta’s households. No one really knows what will happen as flu season starts in September. No one really knows anything. We are left to fend for ourselves and to trust God that this too shall pass.
Have a happy Friday night!