With regular in-person learning about to resume in our schools this month, students, parents, and teachers all deserve special mention and acknowledgment.
While schools were closed, every student missed their friends and teachers and struggled to stay focused on online lessons. Some faced insurmountable obstacles, because of problems at home or inadequate or unavailable internet or technology.
Parents struggled as well. Many were working from home, while simultaneously supervising more than one child, with multiple schedules and devices. Organizing this for months at a time was stressful beyond imagination.
Teachers faced challenges they had never experienced before. Teaching online meant learning new technology and improvising to make a television studio in their homes, and then teaching to a screen.
The Provincial Government’s decision to close schools earlier this year was based on the advice of public health officials. However, it continues to be controversial, and whether it was the right call and how it was managed will be debated for years to come.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Education released guidelines for the safe re-opening of our schools. The guidelines are available at: www.ontario.ca/page/covid-19-health-and-safety-measures-schools.
The recommendations continue to evolve, as new questions emerge and new
scientific knowledge is provided by public health officials. Opposition MPPs will offer their critique, and the Government should listen to constructive ideas that emerge to ensure students and staff are safe while making the educational experience as close to normal as possible.
A few years ago, I worked with Dr. Irvin Studin on a proposal to encourage the teaching of more internationally important languages (as “3rd languages”) in our schools. He now heads the Institute for 21st Century Questions, a leading Canadian think tank. In a recent Globe and Mail article, Dr. Studin argues that going forward, keeping the schools open should be viewed as a social imperative, that excellence and normalcy must be the goals, and an extraordinary effort must be extended to help the students who have fallen behind to catch up.
We have learned many lessons so far in our fight against COVID-19, and together we can pass this test, too.