Submitted by Justine Bell, OCDSB school trustee for Somerset-Kitchissippi
You have likely heard by now that it “takes a community to keep our schools safe,” and that we must all do our part to stay healthy — at school and beyond. Well, it looks like we are heeding the call. So far, following the ministry of education’s COVID-19 protocols and the advice of Ottawa Public Health has paid off. We have generally not seen the spread of the virus in schools.
In our classrooms, the safety measures we have put in place — daily self-assessment, physical distancing, hand hygiene, the wearing of masks and PPE as required and the isolation of high-risk contacts in the event of a positive case — are helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in schools.
On the home front, I know that for my family, the past three months have been a roller coaster ride. This morning my daughter was so happy walking to school, she excitedly told me how to spell “Love.” Yesterday’s letter in senior kindergarten was “L”! At our house, we are doing the best to enjoy these little moments because we know they can be replaced by fear and uncertainty at any moment. The first (and only) time I received notification from my daughter’s principal that there was a positive case at her school was terrifying.
An OCDSB survey went out a few weeks ago to ask, “What are the most important things you want to share about your family’s school experience so far this year?” We heard from close to 9,000 parents and guardians of in-person school students and around 3,250 parents and guardians of students attending school virtually (OCV). According to the survey results, most parents reported that their child is somewhat or very engaged in their learning; nearly three quarters of elementary school parents said that their child’s well-being has improved since returning to school; and secondary school parents had mixed feelings about how it’s going, with mental health and workload expectations being significant concerns. A message that came out loud and clear was the great appreciation we all have for educators, administrators and custodians, and our concern for their mental health and well-being.
So how’s it going? I’m not going to give it a grade. I believe it is important to acknowledge that it’s been hard, there have been some amazing little moments to cherish and we still have a lot to learn.
My hope is that, as we enter the holiday season and start the new year, we will take what we have learned and enjoy the amazing little moments together.