COVID-19 radically changing back to school experience

Published On September 16, 2020 | By Jennifer Kozak | News

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Back to school is taking on a whole new meaning this year.

Parents are finally relieved to have some time to themselves between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m., and students are excited to be in the company of their peers after a long summer of not seeing them.

But because of social distancing safety restrictions, schools were provided with guidelines by the Toronto Public Health to protect students and teachers. One of them limits the number of visitors, including parents, on school grounds.

“I wasn’t able to kiss my daughter goodbye,” said Despina Kapetanos, a North York mother of two young children.

Kapetanos decided to allow her 10-year-old daughter to attend class rather than virtual learning.

“A large part of my decision was based on my daughter’s mental well-being because it wasn’t going too well when we did virtual learning,” she said. “Our school is considered high risk; there is a lower enrolment rate, which works in our favour because smaller classes.”

Rising COVID numbers across Ontario concerns parents as the Ontario Ministry of Health reported 251 new cases today.

Diana Grimaldos, of Etobicoke, decided virtual learning was best for her and her family. Her six-year-old daughter starts virtual learning on Sept. 22, a date that was pushed back after the demand for online learning sprung at the last minute.

The Toronto District School Board announced it needed more time to perfect schedules and provide extra time for the staff.

“Our family doesn’t feel that the back to school plan is safe for anybody,” Grimaldos said. “Small class sizes are not guaranteed, and they vary from school to school.

“The burden that we will put on our healthcare system is significant once we hit the second wave,” she said. “I am worried if I do get sick because my kid gets sick, I am worried we will not survive.”

Grimaldos said it is impossible to physically distance in a classroom with 20 students, as there is no cap for elementary school capacity. However, there is a classroom capacity limit of about 15 students in high school.

Anthony Phipps, a Grade 10 student at Weston Collegiate Institute, will be going back to school on Sept.18.

“I am excited to be back in class with my friends and be in-class learning,” Phipps said.

He said he would be “exercising, skateboarding and playing video games” to deal with the stress of attending high school during a pandemic.

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