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LETTER: Government’s back-to-school plan light on details

education, elementary school, learning and people concept - group of school kids sitting and listening to teacher in classroom from back
When schools open in September, it will look different than this typical classroom scene, with extra health precautions required because of COVID-19. — Postmedia file photo

There have been many challenges and concerns in this province resulting from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the very top of the list, second only to health care, would arguably be the challenges that this pandemic has presented to our education system. And while these challenges were painfully apparent in the latter half of the 2019-2020 school year, that is now behind us, and the focus must now be shifted to what will happen in September.

That brings us to government’s recent announcement regarding the resumption of classes this coming fall. This “plan” basically gave direction to the school districts to develop an actual plan containing three potential scenarios: 1. Resumption to full in-class instruction 2. A combination of in-class and online instruction and 3. Full online instruction from home.

Will children have to remain home every time they have as much as a minor sniffle, and how realistic will that be from both a practical and/or enforcement point of view?

While this basic direction is arguably a start, and while it is welcome news that full in-class resumption is the government’s ultimate goal, this plan certainly fell far short of the level of detail required to put families’ minds at ease.

Parents and students alike have many questions. Questions such as, how will social distancing be accomplished in already overcrowded classrooms? Will there be portable classrooms added to the mix? Will gymnasium and/or lunchroom space be converted into classroom space in order to achieve smaller class sizes and appropriate social distancing? Will children have to remain home every time they have as much as a minor sniffle, and how realistic will that be from both a practical and/or enforcement point of view?

How will lunch/recess be accommodated? How will proper sanitization be achieved, particularly where very young students are involved? What additional resources will come to bear from both an instructional and school sanitation point of view? How will children with exceptionalities be taken care of other than “do the best you can”? How about school busing? Will additional runs be required? How will that work from a scheduling point of view? What about the sanitation of buses between runs? How will all these plans accommodate the fact that many parents have to work?

Now I fully realize that there are no simplistic solutions to many of these concerns, and I am certainly not going to pretend to have all the answers. However, there does need to be a detailed plan developed well in advance of September so that families are given sufficient time to digest any changes in protocol and plan their lives accordingly.

I would further add that teachers need to be fully engaged in the development of this detailed strategy as they will be expected to actually carry out the plan upon implementation.

So let’s get it done and get it done properly. Time is ticking, and September will be here before you know it. We owe it to our children to get this right.

Paul Lane, Independent MHA

District of Mount Pearl-Southlands


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