Nervous and anxious, but hoping for the best was the common frame of mind among parents arriving at Sunnyside Elementary with their kids for the first day of school Thursday (Sept. 10).
There’s “a lot of unknowns,” Rocky Gill explained after he and his wife Sherry dropped off their daughter at the South Surrey school for her Grade 2 orientation.
“I don’t know what’s changed since March. You’re just putting people out there.”
Surrey School District shared its return-to-school plan on Aug. 26. The details included that students in kindergarten to Grade 9 would have full-time access to the classroom; staggered arrival and departure times at some of its larger schools; and never more than 60 per cent of students sharing a lunch period. A “blended” online option was announced five days later, offering elementary-aged kids a combination of online and face-to-face learning.
Masks are required for hallways, buses and other common areas, and many of the students arriving at Sunnyside Thursday morning were either wearing them, or had them at the ready.
Sherry Gill said her daughter was excited about going to school – armed with a mask, sanitizer and wipes – but a little nervous once she arrived and saw so many kids and parents wearing masks.
The family chose the full-time attendance option for the sense of stability that the instruction and social interaction would provide. Due to work, home schooling wasn’t an option for the family, and the blended option – with just two days in class, didn’t make sense, Rocky Gill added.
Whether kids are in school part-time or full-time, “if you’re exposing them, you’re exposing them,” he explained.
Parent Jinny Ko also chose to send her kids – Taeyang, 9, and Taehee, 7 – to school full time. said she felt that parents weren’t given much choice beyond that. The blended option doesn’t guarantee students a seat at their local school when they transition to full-time and schooling at home is not manageable with three kids when one is a toddler, she said.
As well, with Mandarin being the main language spoken in their home, Ko said her kids are missing out on important English-language interaction.
“We’re not really sure about the coronavirus, we’re not really comfortable. (But) it seems like no choice,” she said. “I just want to hear what other parents are thinking. Nobody’s sure.”
Another mother, Michelle (who declined to provide her last name), said while better organization of the morning’s arrival would have helped ease anxieties, she believes everyone is doing their best, and that the mental- and social-health benefits of returning to school outweigh the concerns.
“I’m not worried about the virus – we have every precaution measure we can take,” she said.
“We’ll just wait and see. I think that’s what everybody is doing.”