COVID-19 has greatly impacted everyone’s lives and will continue to affect everyone, especially the most vulnerable, such as children. Parents now have to decide whether they will send their children back to school for in-class learning or continue with remote learning. Five parents living in St. James Town shared their thoughts with us this month about COVID-19’s impact on their children’s education and general concerns related to new protocols.
All the parents we interviewed suggested that the maximum number of children per classroom should be 10 or 15 to allow for social distancing. However, some parents are concerned about their children’s social development in school. Olga Taban, a parent, said “I think social distancing is good but over-doing it is not the best as my child needs to interact with other children and play. Too much physical distancing is a concern for kindergarten kids who are learning how to socialize. Social distancing influences mental health and human touch is important for children.” Parents Hardika and Tina are worried about their children’s health and safety. Hardika said, “I am concerned about my child not being able to follow instructions because they don’t wear gloves, shoes, and hats properly in the winter so how can they follow these new sanitation procedures and wear a mask all day?”
Many people living in St. James Town are newcomers who may face language barriers when accessing resources and information. Anu felt that communication was a barrier with the Toronto District School Board because she only gets automated messages about sending her kids back to school or not. She thought that communication would continue to be a challenge throughout the whole school year and would prefer face to face communication.
Some parents were also concerned about educating their children about the COVID-19 protocols. Jahnavi mentioned that young children may not understand complicated vocabulary and that parents will need to communicate with teachers to understand the changes in classroom routines. Anu mentioned that English is not her first language and suggested that protocols be translated into different languages.
Parents have many thoughts on whether their children’s behavior will change because of COVID-19. Jahnavi thought her 10 year old child would be more focused in school. Tina said her 5 year old child’s behavior may improve when they go back to school as they were distracted while learning at home for the past few months. Many parents agree that remote learning doesn’t work well because children won’t take education seriously and won’t listen to their parents.
This school year will be a challenge for many families as they figure out what is best for their children as health and safety is a priority.