A Facebook group was created recently where parents who are in favour of online schooling could voice their opinion. In light of the high number of cases of COVID-19 and also that children are prime transmitters of the virus, these parents are advocating to have the option of online schooling.
The school environment is a high-risk environment as presented by health experts locally and abroad. The main concerns are that children could easily pass the virus to vulnerable people in their family or that they themselves may be vulnerable.
The argument that symptoms are mild in most cases does not hold as we have seen people of every age who have died or who have had long term effects after they caught the virus ‘mildly’.
Returning to school is also risky as our classes are small and the number of children together with teacher and LSE/s is way too high. The amount of hours that the children spend in the class is also to be considered. If a child or a teacher or LSE is found positive, the whole class will need to be quarantined.
This will still create issues for working parents and create an abrupt stop in the routine and consistency for the quarantined group concerned. Moreover, the infected person may have had contact with other staff or children, thus more people would need to be quarantined.
During the quarantine period, children will still be losing time for their education. When discussing a plan of action re schooling, it is important to keep in mind that schools will open in wintertime when flu is common.
What will happen when a child is sick or suffers from an allergy? Would they need to carry out the swab test each time? What about if schools open and need to close again due to COVID-19?
Wouldn’t this be disruptive for teachers, parents and most students? This could be preventable if the option of online schooling is given to the parents.
Those who mention the importance of children returning to school mention the importance of socialising. However, one has to keep in mind that due to social distancing, this will be limited. Moreover, asking children to social distance could negatively affect them psychologically.
Certain school activities and outings would not be possible. The children would not be able to share items which will be very difficult for teachers to control especially in younger age groups.
Students may also be asked to keep a mask on and this may not be easy for all children.
When one is talking about the middle and secondary school scenario, we have to keep in mind that children change their classroom for every lesson.
How will classrooms be disinfected after each lesson? What will happen in corridors? And what about school transport, breakfast club and Klabb 3 to 16 where you will have a mixture of children from different classes?
It is important to mention the hygiene issues in our schools, especially as regards toilets. If children are kept in a bubble, this will no longer be possible once a child goes to the bathroom as this is shared between a number of classes.
One would also need to keep in mind that if kids physically attend school, one can no longer rely on grandparents to keep kids after school as they could possibly be carriers.
This would mean that a working parent may need to leave work earlier.
If online lessons are being held, it is important that these are structured well. One would also need to take into consideration the needs of children who have an LSE and/or have educational needs.
In light of all the information given, it would be ideal that a decision is taken so that teachers can be prepared and for parents to make any necessary arrangements. The online lessons scenario is the safest option for our children.
Children can still keep in touch with other students in a safe environment which promotes independent learning. If the parent and teacher or LSE co-operate together, the parent will be involved more in the education of their children and can monitor better their progress.
If at least a number of parents keep their children at home and will be offered the option of online learning, this will help in having a lower infection rate on the island. We will have healthier kids and healthier families.