Parents feeling unprepared as winter term starts with online learning

Parents in the region are readjusting to life in lockdown by starting the winter term with remote learning. On Dec. 21 province announced new measures including a delayed start to in-person classes.

On Dec. 21 province announced new lockdown measures including a delayed start to in-person classes

Katy Davies had to take a week off of work in order to be at home for her twin girls who will have to study remotely this week. (Supplied by Katy Davies)

With kids spending this week learning from their living rooms instead of classrooms, some parents in the region are scrambling to make alternate arrangements.

During the holiday break, Ontario announced new lockdown measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which included delaying the start of in-person classes for elementary school students until Jan. 11 and until Jan. 25 for secondary students in southern Ontario.

"It's a little distressing," said Katy Davies from London, Ont., who is taking the week off work to be home when her six-year-old twin daughters resume classes Tuesday. She and her husband do shift work so remote learning didn't seem like an option at the beginning of the school year, due to their schedules and inability to work from home.

"If the lockdown continues, even if the schools open, I'm probably going to have to take shorter days at work because I can't send them to their grandparents or have a babysitter come over," she said.

Brooke Stiles has four children. Three which are enrolled in the Thames Valley District School Board, including one child with special needs. (Submitted by Brooke Stiles)

Other parents, such as Londoner Brooke Stiles, have expressed frustration about the move to online learning. She said she's still not sure how to juggle helping four children who are all learning from different curricula.

Stiles has a toddler, another child enrolled in junior kindergarten, one in Grade 5 French Immersion and another with special needs enrolled in Grade 10. 

"My kids are going to regress again like they did in March, but there's nothing I can do about it," she said.

"I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to manage my time bouncing along with everybody."

On Monday Thames Valley District School Board secondary students returned to online learning. Elementary school children enrolled in classes in-person had a day off as staff and teachers checked in with parents to inform them of what the week will look like.

"I wish I would've had a lot more time, a lot more preparation and a lot more instruction other than a five-minute phone call the day before it's supposed to happen," Stiles said. 

Davies echoed the same sentiment, wishing that parents would have been given more time to prepare for the week ahead.

"I think [the province] needs to be more proactive and less reactive. We could see this coming since November [when COVID-19 cases were rising]."

"I just assumed that we're in the same kind of position we were in the spring and they shut the schools down after March break, so what is different now except for the greater risk of transmission? ... It would have been nice to just maybe have announced this before the holiday break and just done what other places have done and said 'We're taking a month off.'" 

Despite rising numbers of COVID-19 cases over the holidays, Education Minister Stephen Lecce penned a letter to parents on Saturday confirming elementary students would be back in the classroom Jan. 11 and that secondary students in southern Ontario would return Jan. 25. 

Lecce also reiterated that schools have not been the cause for the community transmission of the virus. 

"I want to reassure parents that according to the province's leading doctors, our schools are safe, with eight out of 10 schools in this province having no cases of COVID-19 and based on board reporting, 99.64 per cent of students have not reported a case of COVID-19," he wrote in the letter.