Ottawa

Some Ottawa parents 'livid' that online learning is extended

Ottawa parents and union officials are blaming the provincial government for not doing enough to prevent the rise of COVID-19 cases, which has led to the extension of online learning to Jan. 25 for students in southern Ontario.

Province extends virtual school for elementary students until Jan. 25

A file photo of a child and his mother doing virtual school on Sept. 22, 2020. Some Ottawa parents are unhappy with the province's decision to extend online learning for elementary school students. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Ottawa parents and union officials are blaming the provincial government for not doing enough to prevent the rise of COVID-19 cases, which has led to the extension of online learning to Jan. 25 for students in southern Ontario.

Elementary students were originally supposed to return to classrooms earlier this month. The provincial government announced Thursday that extending online learning was necessary amid record-high case numbers

"I'm livid," Ariel Troster, who has a daughter in the third grade, told CBC Ottawa's All in a Day. "We place the blame squarely on the government for making poor choices that led us here."

While Troster said she understands why the decision is necessary, she said she believes it was preventable. She said parents and teachers have been advocating for enhanced measures for months, including smaller class sizes, paid sick days for parents who need to stay home with children and improvements to air flow in classrooms.

"My daughter's devastated. We're devastated. We know it might be necessary right now, but we really want to see action to make sure that school does actually come back in two weeks."

Troster said the decision also forces parents to take time off work while they "take on the role of an unpaid educational assistant," which not everyone can afford to do.

Ariel Troster with her daughter Daphne. Troster says students and their parents are once again forced into online learning because of 'poor choices' by the provincial government. (Submitted by Ariel Troster)

'It did not have to be this way': dad

Chris Mallinos is worried about the impact continuing online learning will have on his six-year-old son.

"I feel awful for my kids and I feel awful for all of the kids who have to bear the brunt of other people's choices and, you know, I feel angry because I honestly believe it did not have to be this way," Mallinos said.

Being crammed together with their boring parents this long is getting to be a strain for some young people.- Bill Gardner, University of Ottawa professor

"He struggled so much in the spring and it was really heartbreaking to watch and I can see that sort of developing again. Just this morning, he cried because he didn't want to have virtual school."

President of CUPE's Ontario School Board Council of Unions Laura Walton said government needs to follow through with concrete action to improve the safety in provincial schools, with both students and staff being put at risk.

"I have yet to see this government really come up with a plan that's going to keep students and educators safe. There seems to be a lot of flip-flopping," said Walton.

No in-class learning 'a big loss'

Dr. Bill Gardner, a University of Ottawa professor of epidemiology who also specializes in child psychology and statistics, said "it's a big loss in many ways if kids can't be in school."

This is the second time the province has implemented at-home learning for elementary students after the government closed schools last March.

"Being isolated from their peers for this long and being crammed together with their boring parents this long is getting to be a strain for some young people," he said.

We talk to two parents for their reaction to the Ontario government's decision to extend virtual learning for elementary students until, at least, January 25. 12:53

With files from CBC Radio's All in a Day

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