Re-open high schools for full-time in-person instruction
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We are the concerned parents of thousands of BC children who were promised a return to school in September. Many of us are essential and non-essential workers who work in various sectors of the BC economy, including in healthcare, teaching, and in other frontline service positions. We rely on BC public schools so that we can work, seek work, study or volunteer rather than be primarily responsible for our children’s education.
We were relieved to hear that our children would return to school at the end of July. However, we were dismayed to discover in September that BC’s “return” to school plans do not actually get many of our children back into schools full-time and in-person. Some high schools are offering as little as 105 minutes of in-person in-class instruction per day. Our concerns are:
- Our children have educational gaps due to the prolonged school closures from last spring despite the success of our public health measures in keeping COVID-19 rates low. The level of face-to-face instruction in some schools is inadequate to allow our children to catch up and meet this year’s curriculum requirements.
- Many teenagers are coming home after 105 minutes of school every day, and are then left to their own devices – literally and figuratively – socially isolated and unsupervised while we are at work. How will their developmental need for social interaction and support be met?
- Public Health professionals and researchers internationally have shown that COVID-19 poses minimal risk to children, and that children do not transmit the disease effectively to others. We give our full support for the public health measures that target high-risk populations—children are not one of these groups.
- BC has a growing mental health and addictions epidemic that has accelerated since the lockdown for COVID-19 began. In some months it has claimed more lives that the entire COVID-19 pandemic in BC. Keeping vulnerable teenagers at home socially isolated, unsupervised and without the ability to engage with one another and with their teachers is likely to fuel this problem.
Many parents cannot give up or neglect their jobs to stand in as educators for their children; nor do we have the skills to do so. Parents need to be at work to keep BC’s economy going. Those of us who are heath care workers need to ensure we can look after all of BC in case of further COVID-19 surges.
In March, little was known about the disease and its risks. We have since learned that children predominantly develop mild infections with lower risk of severe disease and death than other respiratory infections like influenza. Children do not transmit COVID-19 effectively to others, and are more likely to acquire infection from teachers than vice versa.
We are aware of parents who have signed petitions to further restrict school hours: They may have reason for extra concern due to immune compromised family members, or have the capacity to supervise home schooling. They should continue to have the option of pursuing remote learning.
For most teenagers, spending the greater part of the day unsupervised at home poses a greater risk than COVID-19. Social isolation may not only worsen school connectedness and educational outcomes, but also increases the risk of depression, anxiety, addiction, and suicide. The current situation further punishes children of families that already face challenges due to disability, language, financial stress or mental health.
We need high schools to provide full-time in-class in-person instruction to guarantee children’s fundamental Rights of the Child to social care, mental health support, and education, and to let us, their parents, resume full work activities. We need the reassurance that BC’s government and educational leadership are putting the interests of BC children and their educational outcomes first. The best available evidence indicates that for most children, including high school students, this is full-time in-class in-person return to school.
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