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Some Yukon parents consider home-school this fall, while others have 'no choice.'

With an uncertain school year looming, some Yukon parents are considering home-schooling their children during the COVID-19 pandemic — while other parents wish they had that option.

Parents have differing reasons for home-school, says chair of Yukon Home Education Society

Marlon Davis, chair of the Yukon Home Education Society, said people consider home-school for differing reasons. (Submitted by Marlon Davis)

With an uncertain school year looming, some Yukon parents are considering home-schooling their children during the COVID-19 pandemic — while other parents wish they had that option.

As a nurse, Stephanie Luneta Stevens doesn't want to risk her two young children getting sick.

She worries about her immunocompromised patients, and says she can't take too much time off.

"If he's going to get sick when he's in school, chances are we're going to have to miss a lot of hours at work," said Luneta Stevens. "We can't afford to do that."

New protocols from Yukon's chief medical officer mean children have to go home immediately if they develop any COVID-19 symptoms, which include coughs or a runny nose. 

Students at many Yukon schools will head back to class on August 20. Some parents are anxious and are turning to home schooling, like Stephanie Luneta Stevens in Whitehorse. She spoke with guest host Elyn Jones. 7:44

Yukon's Department of Education has said the health of students and staff is the priority for the coming school year. Schools will have several heightened safety measures, including more cleaning, physical distancing and frequent hand washing.

Luneta Stevens and her husband figure they can juggle home-school for now; she works during the day while her husband works nights.

"It's not going to be perfect, but at least it keeps us all safe," said Luneta Stevens, who eventually wants her kids back in class.

Stephanie Luneta Philips is a nurse in Whitehorse with two young children. She and her husband have decided to home-school their kids this year. (Submitted)

The chair of the Yukon Home Education Society (YHES) says she's heard more inquiries about home-schooling this year.

Parents have varying reasons to consider home-school, said Marlon Davis, chair of the YHES. The society aims to provide community and advocacy for home-schooling families.

Some parents are concerned about their kids' health, Davis said, while others worry about a school year full of physical distancing and more rigid safety measures.

"I've heard concerns from parents who have kids going into kindergarten," said Davis. "It's slowly dawning on them that their kids are not going to have the traditional kindergarten experience, which is very play-based, interactive with other kids."

'I have no choice but to send her to school'

But not everybody has the option to home-school.

"I have no choice but to send her to school," said Jen Laliberte, a single mother who lives in Whitehorse. "If I'm not working then we're not living."

With no family or support system in Whitehorse, Laliberte worries about catching the coronavirus from her six-year-old daughter. Self isolation would derail her ability to work or even get groceries, she said.

 But she says home-schooling a Grade 2 student just isn't sustainable as a single parent.

"It creates so much fear and anxiety," she said. "[Catching COVID-19] creates a situation for our family that would be almost impossible. I don't know what we would do." 

As a sole caregiver, Jen Laliberte, left, says she's worried about what would happen if she gets sick from her six-year-old daughter this year. (Submitted)

Laliberte also worries about having enough sick leave "to compensate for staying home with my kid every time she has a cold."

She's bought her daughter face masks and is trying to teach her six-year-old good hygiene techniques.

"I've read a lot of online discussion forums about people talking about, 'well I'm just going to keep my kids home,'" Laliberte said.

"I think people really take for granted that there's some other option for people."

About the Author

Laura Howells is a journalist from Newfoundland who is currently reporting in Whitehorse. She most recently worked as a digital reporter and radio producer in Toronto. You can reach her at laura.howells@cbc.ca and follow her on Twitter @LauraHowellsNL.

With files from Yukon Morning

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