What is the way forward?

Dear Editor,

  To the Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, the Hon. Mr. Rodolphe Samuel, representatives of the Catholic School Board, and the management of St. Dominic Primary School, I sincerely ask: What is the way forward?

  My child may be just the one per cent that can be affected by the deadly virus called COVID-19. However, it is 100 per cent my responsibility to ensure his safety and wellbeing.

  We know that COVID-19 has brought challenges and struggles to our daily lives. From the beginning we have adopted new habits to adapt to this new normal and this new way of life certainly includes our environment and our children. However, with proper planning and open communication with stakeholders, these challenges can be mitigated to ensure the safety of one’s child(ren).

  The new normal includes concerns that many parents have about going back to school, especially for those whose children have chronic illnesses and underlying conditions, like mine.

  Although we look forward to that day where our children can resume some sort of normalcy in their lives, we also must analyze its risks.

  Among concerned parents, there has been talk about three options for returning to school: in-person, online or a hybrid of the two. The latter includes separating groups to avoid having many children in the classroom, alternating the days of in-person and online education.

  In my opinion having 20-30 kids per classroom is a bit concerning. How can social distancing be adhered to? Why hasn’t a general meeting been held with the parents to assure the wellbeing and safety of their children? Why hasn’t the Catholic School Board considered all other options for returning to school?

  There’s a lot of WHYs and NO answers being provided to inquiring parents.

  On November 2, 2020, my child resumed in-person classes because he is in exam class. The thought of him returning to school honestly scared me, but I sent him to school for the first week.

  After a few cases of COVID-19 cases in the primary schools, I consulted with his physician and it was decided that my child be immediately taken out of school and resume online schooling. I reached out to the school’s manager and both teachers who directly deal with my son.

  The response I received from the school was a bit disheartening. I was told that the current situation with the school’s Internet would not allow for my child to do classes online. There was no plan or any sort of solution.

  I later reached out to his homeroom teacher and she was sympathetic. She said that she would try her best to accommodate my child, given the circumstances. She surpassed her duty as an instructor and for that I am appreciative.

  However, on November 13, 2020, I received a letter that said one of my child’s teachers was in contact with a person who tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and will be in quarantine for 14 days. It said she will revert to Zoom lessons while in quarantine.

  I thought to myself that it could have happened to anyone. But I also thought: Why is the school now able to revert to Zoom for the teacher but could not facilitate my child on Zoom?

  I immediately contacted the school to share my concerns because my son was called in during the week to do some tests and to hand in projects, which was requested by the now-quarantined teacher.

  The school manager was not available to take the call. Therefore, my concerns were shared with the office staff who answered the phone.

  She assured me that my child was not in contact with said teacher but was instead placed in the office to do his test. She indicated that the school manager would return my call.

  On Sunday, November 15, 2020, while scrolling through Facebook I came upon a letter sent out on Saturday, November 14, 2020, regarding an office staff member at the school who tested positive for COVID-19. It said the entire school management would quarantine at home for 14 days.

  To date, no one has contacted me about the information that was published via a news source on social media.

  A press release was published by the Ministry of Education indicating that schools were not adhering to the government’s social distancing and hygiene guidelines and that routine inspections would be made unannounced. That is not enough Hon. Minister! 

  We need a plan A, B, C, and D. We must adapt to the new norm. It is not enough to just state that routine inspections will be made. School management and teachers should be penalized if the rules are not adhered to. These persons are not just responsible for their lives but also responsible for the lives of others. It’s just not enough!

  My child may be the one per cent of children that can be affected drastically with this scary virus – a virus that does not discriminate – but my child is 100 per cent of my life and it is my full duty to ensure his safety. How can parents feel some sort of assurance that everything is being done to ensure the safety and well-being of their kids?

  Although some of what I shared is my personal situation, this is not personal. Many parents share concerns about the well-being and safety of their kids. I will stand and represent what many think but cannot put into words.

  I believe that, at this crucial moment, there is nothing more important than the health of our children, and if we weigh the health of our children against their education, their health seems more important.

  We should remember that nothing is forever, and these moments of crisis will, sooner or later, pass and we will have time to recover in all aspects. How can we all be met halfway?

A concerned parent.