Saskatchewan

Sask. parents left with questions after province says kids will return to school this fall

The province says kids can go back to school in the fall, but parents are wondering what that will look like.

Regina mom says extra mental health supports will be needed for stressed students

Regina parent Kristen McLeod has been helping her kids, including her daughter Charlie, with schoolwork at home since in-school classes stopped on March 20. She said she's looking forward to schools reopening in the fall, but still has questions about what that will look like. (Submitted by Kristen McLeod)

Regina mother Kristen McLeod says helping her kids with schoolwork now takes up much of her day. 

She has three children, ages 9, 12 and 16. She said all of them have different needs, but they're eager to learn. 

McLeod said she breathed a sigh of relief on Tuesday when the province announced that schools would open in the fall. 

But she is left wondering if there will be regular school hours, if students will attend all week, if classroom sizes will be reduced, if there will be enough bathrooms, if extracurricular activities will run and if recess will be allowed.

Students have been doing their work from home since pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 classes were shut down in Saskatchewan on March 20 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The provincial government has been looking into alternative teaching methods for the next school year, with the possibility of online learning instead of in-person classes or a hybrid of the two.  

While the province said this week students will go back to their classrooms in the fall, few other details have been announced so far.

"What I don't want to see is children somehow returning part-time," said McLeod.

"I think that puts an absolutely overwhelming pressure on caregivers of young people to adjust work and life," she said.

"We already place that pressure pretty much on women, and I've seen a lot of thought given to the fact that this pandemic, and the repercussions of pulling children out of daycares and schools, is falling primarily to women."

School could be back in session as early as Sept. 1, the province has said.

Education Minister Gord Wyant said public health guidelines will be distributed as early as next week. They could include designated entrances and exits and shifting schedules to ensure physical distancing can be maintained.

"This really all depends on what the state of affairs is when school returns in September. If the ongoing risk is significantly minimized, then things will be a little bit different than if the risk factors are higher," Wyant told reporters on Tuesday. 

The provincial government says pre-K to Grade 12 classes will resume in the fall. But for some parents, a step towards normalcy also brings many concerns. (David Donnelly/CBC)

McLeod said she hopes teachers have the resources they need to face this new set of challenges. She wants to see help offered for both students and educators when it comes to managing fear and mental health.

"What I'm really, really worried about is the overwhelming load of stress these kids have been carrying," said McLeod.

"And then they're going to return to school and they're going to be worried, their parents are going to be worried at home, and they're gonna bring that with them.… So front and centre for me is, how are we going to cope with that mental health crisis?"

McLeod says kids she knows have had trouble coping with the pandemic and physical distancing. One was found to be using Lysol wipes on her face and body. Another had been pulling hair out of her head. 

When asked if she is worried that reopening schools will be a public health risk due to COVID-19, McLeod said her focus is on quality of life for kids. 

"I'm sure there's probably two camps, and I'd probably fall into the one that says we're gonna keep washing our hands, we're gonna be careful, we're gonna stay home when we're sick," she said. 

"I don't want my children to live in a world governed by fear."

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