Mixed reaction in the north to remote learning continuing until September
There was mixed reaction to news this week that remote learning would continue until the end of the school year.
Margaret Jones has four kids at home in Gore Bay and three of them are school aged. She said it has been tough.
"It's frustrating, it's so stressful and I've noticed my 14-year-old -- she's in Grade 9 -- this was her first year of high school and for a lot of kids it's a 'make-or-break' year," Jones said.
"She's not liking it. She had a couple of months in school and she loved it and loved the chance to meet new people and going back to online learning, it's been pretty lonely for her."
Jones said the Internet has also been a challenge. With so many kids online at one time, bandwidth becomes an issue.
"I think we (Manitoulin Island) are getting mushed in with everyone else, we're pretty isolated up here," she said. "I think we've been doing what we're supposed to be doing and we're getting punished for the big cities ... it is what is and there's nothing we can do about it."
And she's not alone. This was clearly not the answer a lot of mothers were looking for in the region.
Terri Lynn Leighton has two children in high school, and one of them is graduating later this year.
"I think we knew it was coming -- I mean it is June and there's only a few weeks left," said Leighton.
"Of course I'm disappointed. My kids enjoy going to school, that's where relationships are formed, they miss their friends, they miss their activities. My kids do well at school so I'm very fortunate that way and it's been a little more challenging with online for sure."
The Gore Bay mom said her heart breaks for her Grade 12 student who wants to return this year for her final few weeks in high school.
One of the hardest things for her daughter was the fact that there are, so far, not any graduate pictures taken of the class. Up until very recently, pictures of all the graduates have adorned the walls of Manitoulin Secondary School.
"It broke my heart to know this class is being deprived of a grad photo," said Leighton. "Yes, I can take a picture of her in a cap and gown, but it's the school and not having that togetherness of the classroom."
"Personally do I think it's a good call. For Manitoulin? No. I think that our schools are safe for the kids to go back, but I also realize that you just can't isolate from one school to the other."
Union officials like Chantal Rancourt, president of Sudbury's Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association, said the solution is far from perfect, but it was the best given the state of the pandemic
"Had we done things differently in the fall of 2020, I don't think we would be needing to make a decision as was made today," said Rancourt.
Rancourt said they like the idea of teachers and students being given extra time to get their vaccines before they return to class in September.
"Everyone will look at this as to how it affects them personally," she said.
"Every child has dealt with the online learning differently, every child has different needs, every teacher has a different style and different needs so there will be mixed reaction. Every parent has a different situation and some can't afford to take time off with their children so it will be a mixed reaction and I think that's natural and normal."
Norm Blaseg, Rainbow District School Board's director of education, said it's disappointing that kids won't be coming back, but it was done with good reason.
Blaseg said health and safety has to come first.
"I think part of that is having children come back and weighing that against kids staying home, the mental health piece, one would hope with the nicer weather and kids can be outside according to the new guidelines, if they're outside and physical distancing, hopefully that will help with the mental health piece," he said.
He said board doesn't like remote learning -- it's not the way they've been trained to teach, but it's something they've had to do to protect children.
"It's a necessary evil and sadly we'll have to carry that out for another four weeks, but at the end of the day, we'll be in a much better position for September," Blaseg said.
As it stands now, the Rainbow District School Board is planning for a return to the classroom in September. It's also planning for other eventualities, but it is looking forward to resuming in-person learning.
Blaseg said as far as the premier's request for outdoor, in-person graduation ceremonies, that came as a surprise.
"That came out of left field so we will have to take that back and take a look at that. I'm on record back in February saying that we would be doing virtual graduations," he said.
He said they're going to continue with the virtual ceremonies, which have been in this works for months. He hopes to have a decision on the premier's request no later than next week.