Charla Huber: Back to school — twice in the same year

Back in March, I didn’t think the schools would open back up in the school year. When I heard they were going to open for June, I am not sure who was more excited, me or my daughter.

Obviously, I was worried about risks, and wanted to make the final decision with caution. As eager and excited as I was, and still am, to reopen parts of our lives and “our bubbles” to include other people, there is a leery feeling in doing so.

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At first, I chatted with parents asking their thoughts about schools reopening and if they were going to send their kids. I’ll admit I felt a little outnumbered, as each parent I spoke with had no intention of sending their kids back to school. I was even wondering if was making the right decision.

I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer here, it’s about personal preferences and family circumstances. This is one of those topics that we need to respect people’s decisions and not try to sway them to stand with us.

We all need to make the best decisions for our families. Also, as schools are operating within a smaller capacity and limiting student numbers, it is actually great that there are some families who are willingly keeping their children home.

It’s been a couple of weeks since schools have reopened, and there have been many children returning to school. I wasn’t alone. At one point I pictured an empty school with my daughter sitting in a class with only her teacher.

My daughter has been in school twice a week and spends other days in child care with a small group of kids. This experience has been extremely positive, and she is almost an entirely new child. She comes home beaming with excitement and happiness. Honestly, her reaction to these outlets opened my eyes to the effects a couple of months in quarantine had on her.

I am grateful to the schools and child-care centres that are opening and offering children the support, activities and mental stimulation they need and crave.

Before sending my daughter to school, we talked about how things might be different and what she could expect. I was worried the changes might be hard to adjust to. There were news stories and letters sent to parents all addressing this.

When my daughter came home the first day, she didn’t mention any of it. Her updates were on her teacher, her friends, and what they were learning. This was another reminder to me on how resilient children are.

My daughter took the school bus for the first time in months and told me how great it was. I had to nearly pry it out of her that she has to use hand sanitizer to board and that the first few rows need to remain empty to give the bus driver space.

I found this interesting because as adults I think we are often focussing on what the changes are going to be and how they will affect us.

Interestingly, there are some things in place that my daughter did point out, such as having to wash her hands before and after she eats. Which is something we should all do, all the time. If this is a new practice that gets drilled into us a little bit more, it’s a good thing.

Many of us are starting to experience the opportunities of going back to school or returning to work, and there will be some big changes in doing so.

At my daughter’s school, she said there are arrows on the floor now, similar to grocery stores. This is something that I think we will continue to see in more places. I remember the first time I saw this on social media and, honestly, I didn’t think it would happen here. It goes to show how fast we are able to implement practices that keep people safe and how quickly we can all adapt to them.

Teachers have now seen their duties multiply, with not only educating children in the classroom, but creating and facilitating online learning, and then the added responsibilities of ensuring the students are adhering to physical distancing. It’s no easy task, and I want to thank all teachers, particularly my daughter’s teacher for stepping up to the challenge.

Charla Huber is the director of communications and Indigenous relations for M’akola Housing Society.

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