Parents want kids back in the classroom, Thames Valley survey finds

The majority of parents have told the Thames Valley District School Board they want their kids back in the classroom in September, but a quarter of them say they're not comfortable with sending their kids back to school.

One quarter of parents aren't comfortable sending their kids back to school, survey says

School boards across Ontario are planning for a range of scenarios for reopening their doors in Septembe. (Mike Crawley/CBC)

The majority of parents have told the Thames Valley District School Board they want their kids back in the classroom in September, while a quarter say they're not comfortable sending their kids back to school yet.

That's according to a survey sent out to parents and filled out by 43,000 families. 

The survey asked parents which of three provincially-mandated models they would prefer for their kids: full-time, every day school with enhanced cleaning protocols; full-time virtual learning, with no in-class option; or a blended model which would see kids do some of their learning online and some in the classroom. 

"No matter which model we choose, we will be communicating with parents," said Mark Fisher, the school board's director of education. "The reality is, we will likely be moving between models throughout the school year."  

The survey found that 75 per cent of parents would be comfortable sending their kids full-time, every day, and about 80 per cent would also like the blended model, Fisher said. About 25 to 30 per cent are not confident sending their kids to school for any part of the day. 

The full-time, every day option is not possible given the current situation and current guidelines from public health, Fisher said. 

Answers by mid-August

Kids socially distance in a classroom. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

"Right now the rule calls for a maximum of 15 students in a class, so that's about half of the kids in a school," he said. 

The province has asked school board to prepare a plan for each of the three scenarios and will review them at the end of July or in early August, Fisher said. The TVDSB is using two London schools, Saunders and Eagle Heights, to prototype the various models. 

"We will be meeting with the ministry and we're hoping that by mid-August we can let parents know which days their kids will go to school and if they qualify for transportation," he said. 

"The scale of what we need to do and plan for is huge." 

The board is looking at having half of kids go to school in the morning and half in the afternoon, he added. 

The Ministry of Education has said that returning to school will not be mandatory if parents have concerns for their children and that school boards are required to continue to provide online learning at home.

Shoes were left behind when children left for March Break and haven't been back because of COVID-19. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

More than half of elementary parents said childcare would be an issue if students were learning online, all or some of the time. 

The school board is launching another survey for students and parents to ask them about online learning, and how it can be improved, Fisher said.

They're also looking at alternative pick-up and drop-off locations so parents and kids aren't congregating in large groups at once, and are looking at alternative locations for teaching kids.