Infecting grandma and more — what kids worry about going back to school under COVID19

We spoke with two young Hamilton students, Arjun Ram in grade 9 and Lilian Bowe in grade 8, about what they worry about going back to school under COVID19, what excites them, what they've learned under quarantine, what they want adults to know and more.

Infectious disease specialists offer advice for students returning to school

We've heard a lot from politicians, medical experts and other adults about what life inside Ontario schools might look like in a week but what about the young students who are heading back to class?

On Thursday at noon we asked two smart, young Hamilton students about how they were feeling heading back to class under COVID-19. We also heard from Dr. Jeff Pernica and Dr. Martha Fulford, infectious diseases specialists at McMaster Children's Hospital, who made clear what the science says about COVID-19, mask wearing, how to keep relatives safe and more.

Read an edited and abridged transcript below or hit play above and watch the entire interview with the CBC's Conrad Collaco. 

Lilian Bowe and Arjun Ram 
CBC Kids contributor Arjun Ram and grade 8 student Lilian Bowe talk about their lives as Hamilton students under COVID-19. (CBC/Nancy Bowe)

How are you feeling right now about going back to school next week?

Lilian Bowe: I'm really excited. I think it'll be so nice to be able to have some normal back in my life. I mean, I'm a little nervous about having to wear masks and social distancing and not really knowing what's happening because everything's changing so fast and it's constantly changing. But I think it'll be so nice to be able to see my friends and to be able to see my teachers. So, I'm really looking forward to it. 

Arjun Ram: Kids are afraid of contracting the virus. And although it may not affect us as much as it may for adults, we're all afraid to go back into that school environment where everybody can contract COVID-19. We're all in that same setting. So, it's kind of mixed feelings. We don't know what to expect, but we're all just glad that we can finally go back to that environment that we were all used to before this all happened. 

What worries you the most about returning to school?

LB: I think for me I'm more worried about getting it and giving it to someone else, especially my grandma who lives fairly close to us and comes in and spends a lot of time with us. I'm very worried about giving it to her. Not so much myself. I think, mostly, I'm kind of worried that there's going to be so many rules and so many things that we have to be aware of that it's going to take the fun out of it.

Dr. Pernica: There are a number of different countries that have opened schools back up without having COVID-19 problems spreading from teenagers to their family members. It is still more likely that adults will get it from other adults rather than from their children or grandchildren.

Dr. Fulford: The most important thing to be aware of when visiting grandparents or anyone is avoid visits if you are feeling unwell.

LB: I love my grandparents so much. And I think knowing that if they were to get sick, knowing that I could have gotten them sick, I think would have made me really upset with myself. But knowing (what Dr. Fulford and Dr. Pernica said) definitely helps.

What about masks?

Are you concerned about having to wear a mask all day in class?

AR: You have to have that certain mindset, like you're doing this for, not only yourself, but for your family and for your friends and for everybody. Because we're in a time right now where this virus can be contracted by anyone. And although, like the doctor said, it may not cause any harm towards kids, it's still quite possible for parents to get it or family members to get it. So, I think you just have to have that kind of feeling that you don't want to you don't want to hurt anybody else. So, keep your mask on and make sure that you're keeping yourself safe. 

Dr. Fulford: It's a good idea to find a mask that is comfortable on your face. Also, take mask breaks. Go outside if you can. Ask if your school has safe "mask free" zones where you can have it off for a bit. Masks are important when we can't social distance. Even more important, remember to keep social distancing when possible and wash your hands. 

Dr. Pernica: It's also important to make sure that children and adolescents stay home if they feel unwell until they are known not to have COVID-19.

What are you most looking forward to when you get back to the classroom? (Question sent in by Hamilton teacher Joe Cappadocia)

LB: I think the biggest thing for me is being able to see my friends and being able to see my teachers again. And when we were doing online school, I found it difficult to be able to actually learn. So, I think being able to be in an environment that's easier for me to learn will be the biggest thing, too. 

AR: I'm going to grade nine next year, my first year of high school, and this definitely isn't the way I envisioned my first year to go to start off. But I'm looking forward to meeting new people... I'm looking forward to being in that high school environment right. It's my first year and I want to make the best out of whatever I have. So, I'm just looking forward to going to high school and just having fun. 

Distance learning

What did you think of the distance learning?

LB: It was difficult. I think, at the beginning — the first two or so weeks — it was amazing. I really loved being able to have something to do every day and having a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. But it was really, really repetitive and it was kind of the same thing every week, which is not necessarily the teacher's fault. I mean, they were kind of thrown into this just as much as we were. But it was really a struggle for me at the end of the day, especially when the weather was really bad and I was just stuck in my room for a good portion of the day. 

AR: Well, it's actually the opposite for me, Lilian. In the beginning, I found it difficult. There was definitely something that I had to get used to. But as time progressed, I kind of got used to it and I was using the hub. And in the beginning, just submitting something through the hub was difficult for me. I was still trying to get to learning the basics, but it's definitely something that takes time to get used to.

What have you learned while under COVID-19 quarantine?

LB: I think being able to try new things and be able to spend more time taking courses and baking and doing different projects around the house was a really big thing for me. It was really amazing to be able to learn new skills and to be able to try different things and to have that time to really practise those new skills that you were learning. 

A message for adults

What one message do you want to make sure adults understand about what your life has been like under COVID-19?

LB: I think we're all experiencing this and we're all going through different versions of it. We're all kind of figuring it out as we go. And really, honestly, the biggest thing for me is not being able to see my friends and having to find different ways to connect with them and FaceTime with them is amazing. And it's incredible that we can do that now. But it's definitely not the same as interacting in person.

AR: It's been really hard, right?...  There's always a sense of not losing that toughness. And we've all adapted to the situations and we try to make the best of it. And that's what I've heard from all my friends. Instead of just lying on your couch or just staying in bed, doing absolutely nothing in front of the TV, just watching whatever, they're actually trying to still be active, hang out with family, go out for a walk or ride bikes and really just make the best out of the current situation that we're in. So, I've heard that it was difficult and I've heard that it's definitely something that they never want to go through again, but they've persevered under their circumstances and they're ready to do the same thing for school. And they're prepared and they have a sense of hope that everything's going to be OK. And let's go out there and let's make the best out of it.