Mixed emotions in London, Ont., as students return to school

Class is in session in London, Ont., as schools provided an in-person welcome back to most of their students on Tuesday following an academic year that was forced to end online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The day gave way to mixed emotions for Kelly Laur, a mother with children enrolled in Grade 5 and Grade 6 at John P. Robarts Public School in the city’s east end.

“I’m excited to get them back in school, a little anxious as to how their year’s going to go, a little worried about if they’re going to stay in school all year, but very hopeful that we’ll be able to,” Laur said.

“For me, the most important thing is for them to be in school, have that social interaction, be with their peers and online learning just did not work in my house.”

The day gave way to mixed emotions for Kelly Laur, who hopes her children in Grade 5 and Grade 6 will be able to learn in-person for the entire year.

The day gave way to mixed emotions for Kelly Laur, who hopes her children in Grade 5 and Grade 6 will be able to learn in-person for the entire year.

Andrew Graham / Global News

Jenna St. Croix, whose son is entering Senior Kindergarten at John P. Robarts, echoed Laur’s concerns and added that remote learning did not go well during the last academic year.

While there’s no guarantee schools will remain open, St. Croix says she’s confident in the COVID-19 protocols in place at the school.

“Last year we had no issues, knock on wood that it’s the same for this year, and (my son) is really good with remembering to put his mask on and sanitizing and washing his hands, so I’m not worried in that sense and I feel like the teachers, as well, take it very serious,” St. Croix said.

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Despite her concerns, St. Croix says she’s still beyond excited for her son to receive an in-person learning experience and for some extra time as a mother of two who keeps busy working as an entrepreneur.

“We’ve been counting down the days, I love my son and I’m excited for him to go to school, but we both need it, for our business for me myself to run, and for him for socialization,” St. Croix said.

Despite concerns about potential school closures, Jenna St. Croix says she's still beyond excited for her son to receive an in-person learning experience.

Despite concerns about potential school closures, Jenna St. Croix says she's still beyond excited for her son to receive an in-person learning experience.

Andrew Graham / Global News

Mark Fisher is the director of education for the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB), which John P. Robarts belongs to.

He says TVDSB staff and administration are closely monitoring how the COVID-19 pandemic is shaping up both locally and across the province. This includes watching daily screenings at schools, which aims to prevent infected individuals from entering class.

Fisher says TVDSB is ready to pivot to online learning on short notice, but he does not expect to see widespread closures this year.

“There may be cases where we have to have individual students be off-school for a period of time or individual classrooms or potentially even schools if it gets to that level, but we’re really hopeful that we won’t have to shut the entire system or pivot the entire system,” Fisher said.

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Other aspects for this academic year remain up in the air, including whether or not extracurriculars will be allowed to play out.

“I am hopeful that we will return to sports and extracurricular activities, but we’re going to do that in a cautious manner,” Fisher said.

“We are going to take a look at these individual activities and sports, and determine which ones we can bring back and then maybe modify them slightly, but we know kids need to have this full experience in order to really fully benefit from school.”

On Wednesday, trustees with the TVDSB will debate a potential COVID-19 vaccine policy that would mandate shots for all workers and education workers at the board.

Currently, the province does not require staff to be vaccinated, but those choose to go unvaccinated must participate in an educational session and comply with weekly testing during their personal time.

 

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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