Coronavirus angst as Canadian schools begin to open

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OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian children are returning to classrooms, but the comeback has started well with dozens of students in a province already isolated amid COVID-19 fears and teacher unions filing protests against job.

FILE PHOTO: A student has her hands disinfected in the schoolyard as schools outside the greater Montreal area begin to reopen amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic, in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, Canada on May 11, 2020. REUTERS / Christinne Muschi – RC2DMG9167HY / File Photo

Coronavirus cases have been reported in many schools in Quebec since classes resumed last week after summer recess, stoking fears across the country as most schools reopen for the first time since March.

Canada’s chief medical officer warned last Friday that cases in schools would be “inevitable,” but told parents the pandemic was “under manageable control” in the country.

“We have pretty low levels of disease,” Dr Theresa Tam told reporters, adding, “I think it’s completely normal to feel stressed. You talk about your children.

Canada has reported 129,425 coronavirus cases and 9,132 deaths as of September 1, but daily new cases have tended to increase in British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba in recent weeks.

Added to anxiety are delays and last-minute changes in back-to-school plans, as well as misinformation about the possible consequences of what students sign up for.

Jackie Lee of Sarnia, Ont., Said her grade 12 son opted for virtual learning to avoid getting infected, only to find out after enrolling that he would graduate from an online high school instead. from the special school he attended.

“That’s not what we signed up for,” she said.

Although the e-learning option has proven popular in many parts of Ontario, hopes that it would lead to a reduction in class sizes have been dashed.

“What we are seeing are students in Grades 2, 3 and 4 all placed in one class due to the number of students who have… opted for online learning,” said Sam Hammond, president of the Federation of Elementary Teachers. Ontario (ETFO).

ETFO and three other teachers’ unions filed a complaint with the labor relations board this week to try to force the province to standardize measurements of physical distance, cohort size, ventilation and buses in the city. province.

In British Columbia, a lawsuit has been brought by two families to try to prevent the province from reopening schools unless stricter security measures, like mandatory masks and smaller classes, are imposed.

ALL STOPS

Canadian authorities have recommended masks for all students aged 10 and over, but not all provinces require masks in schools. Yet provincial leaders say their plans are based on advice from Canada’s top doctors and scientists.

“We are doing everything,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said on Wednesday.

Last week, the federal government pledged C $ 2 billion ($ 1.5 billion) to help schools reopen safely. But school boards across the country have said there isn’t enough money to hire new teachers to dramatically reduce class sizes.

Some parents turn to “learning modules”, where parents hire someone to supervise learning outside of school.

Mychele Kitcher took to Facebook to find a family nearby to welcome her two young daughters to Ottawa. With an immunocompromised mother who just had surgery, Kitcher said attending school was not an option.

“The children go to school with a thousand people. There’s no way there won’t be COVID there, ”she said. “I can’t risk my kids bringing this to him.”

While some parents worry about the risk of the spread of COVID-19, others worry about the impact of the isolation imposed by the pandemic on their children.

Sara Bisson, mom from Ottawa, says that after months at home, her son is desperate to start fourth grade and see his friends again.

“He’s ready to put on a hazmat suit. He just wants to go home.

($ 1 = 1.3065 Canadian dollar)

Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa, additional reporting by Kelsey Johnson in Ottawa, Allison Lampert in Montreal and Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

Our standards:Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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