Special to Niagara Now/The Lake Report
Although the number of COVID cases continues to drop in Niagara and schools have reopened, some parents are still not comfortable with sending their children back to class.
Brooke Bowslaugh, a Niagara-on-the-Lake resident and mother of two, said her five-year-old daughter, Olivia, has a weakened immune system and she doesn’t think it’s the right time to send her back just yet.
Olivia has been at home learning online at Crossroads Public School since March 2020.
“I am worried she may never be able to go back to school. She spent much of her first year of school out of it at home being sick. That was before COVID, so I’m worried for her all the time,” said Bowslaugh.
A stay-at-home mother, Bowslaugh said the frustrations of doing her daily duties as well as keeping an eye on her children has been a little frantic, but manageable.
“It’s stressful trying to virtual school while chasing a toddler around, but it isn’t an impossible challenge. I’ve reached out to our teacher and she gave me some tips on how to keep my daughter from running away from the computer,” Bowslaugh said.
Another Niagara-on-the-Lake mother, Aksana Kavaliova, whose daughter, Elina, is in Grade 5 at Crossroads, said it is a relief to see kids head back to class. She thinks it’s good for young people’s well-being and mental health.
Kavaliova, a psychotherapist, said COVID has put new mental health stresses on young children, changes she's seen over the past few months.
Being in the classroom with other kids is important to develop social skills, she said.
“It is really important to talk about kids’ mental health,” Kavaliova said.
”Older adults or adults with older kids don’t see it this way. We, on the other hand, see how even this past month changed many kids,” said Kavaliova.
Older kids can manage online learning, “but younger students need a real classroom, real interaction to develop their social skills.”
Safety guidelines in place at NOTL schools
Elementary students went back to the classroom Monday and schools are taking extra precautions to prevent potential spread of COVID-19.
Students will undergo daily COVID-19 screenings for symptoms, to space six-feet apart in classrooms and maintain social distancing between classes.
The Niagara Catholic District School Board says on its website that students and staff must wear masks at all times, including outside, unless they have a medical exemption.
Schools also will be able to do asymptomatic testing of students, per recommendations from Niagara Region public health. Families will be notified before testing occurs, the board said.
The District School Board of Niagara is following similar protocols and provides additional COVID-19 safety information along with self-assessment tools and information as to school outbreaks, active case numbers and closures.
None of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s elementary schools have reported any COVID-19 outbreaks so far.
For post-secondary schools, such as Niagara College and Brock University, the province is recommending online learning. Students who are required to be on campus must wear a non-medical mask, both indoors and outdoors.
At Niagara College, a mask and screening tests are required to enter buildings.