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Back to school: here’s hoping for the best

Starting kindergarten in a pandemic

If the start of school wasn’t enough to induce an anxiety attack, we have the proroguing of parliament, after it has already been shut down for five months.

It seems that as families are preparing to send children back to school, and the provincial government is trying to get Albertans back to work, the federal government is going in the opposite direction.

It really is a strange world we’re living in, when Parliament isn’t sitting, but children have to go to school.

As a parent, I don’t feel prepared for this school year to start.

And yet, it’s here.

With zero active cases in Ponoka, and some indications that children are at a low risk of contracting the virus, most of my concerns lie with the impact living in such strange times will imprint on my children’s young psyches.

Sending my middle child off to kindergarten — something that’s already emotional for parents — while donning a face mask and admonishing him one last time to stay away from other kids and wash his hands, is sure to feel like something out of a science fiction movie.

The worst I had to contend with starting school as a five-year-old was overcoming my shyness to interact with other kids and avoiding the puke stains on the rug during carpet time (gross, I know. My school may have been under-funded).

My kid will have to worry about keeping a mask on most of the day, staying two metres away from all the other kids, and constantly being expected to wash his hands.

Back to school is already a stressful time, but when you add COVID-19 on top of all that, it just ups the ante.

Yes, there’s the usual things like supplies and clothing that I generally procrastinate on, but with both parents working in our household, our summer felt like it went by so fast, and I haven’t had the time, mentally, to catch up.

I hadn’t felt particularly anxious about my children attending school until I listened in on Wolf Creek Public Schools’ virtual town hall.

Don’t get me wrong — I have a lot of respect for all the work that is being done in our school division to ensure a safe re-entry.

And it’s not that the answers weren’t reassuring — they were — it’s just that there were a lot of things I hadn’t even considered yet, and it just feels a bit overwhelming at the moment.

Superintendent Jayson Lovell’s answered questions deftly, with confidence and without hesitation, to both prepared questions, and ones that came during the live meeting, which I found quite impressive.

He seemed prepared and calm, which in and of itself was rather reassuring, but again, it gave me too much to think about.

The Alberta Teacher’s Association wanted the government to delay the start of school until after Labour Day, to give teachers and staff more time to prepare for the arrival of students.

I would have seconded that motion, but it’s apparent they didn’t get what they asked for.

Heck, it would have been fine by me if they’d set it back a month or two. They’ve already missed so much school, so in the grand scheme of things, what would it really matter?

For those families like my own with two parents working, homeschooling isn’t really an option, so I suppose we send them to school and hope for the best.

Emily Jaycox

About the Author: Emily Jaycox

I’m Emily Jaycox, the editor of Ponoka News and the Bashaw Star. I’ve lived in Ponoka since 2015 and have over seven years of experience working as a journalist in central Alberta communities.
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