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More clarity needed on return to school

Ada-Slivinski
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Ada Slivinski: ‘Keeping up with online schooling while holding down a full-time job is impossible, no matter what magazines and mom-bloggers tell you.´

There are just over five weeks left until kids are supposed to return to school in September – but we still have very little information about what that will look like.

While elementary schools have been instructed to prepare for a 100 per cent return back to school, a more formal announcement for parents is expected next week. Premier John Horgan has said changes can be expected all the way through September, and that parents should have a backup plan.

Elementary school is not a “nice to have,” it’s essential for childcare, socialization, and yes,  education. Parents need more leadership and clarity on what will happen if schools can’t take students full time – and a whole lot more detail on what Plan B looks like from a provincial perspective, and what the Province will do to help parents already stretched to the max.

For working parents, the cost of childcare for kids under five is astronomical, comparable to a second rent or mortgage payment. Now, those weighing the option of having to pay for some form of childcare if schools shut down again or temporarily stepping back from the workforce fear making the wrong decision if they bet wrong on depending on school.

So what will the government do? Will a portion of the school tax be returned to parents? Will community schools be set up that will allow a small group of neighbourhood children to be taught by one teacher? (Some groups of parents with immunocompromised family members are already doing this.) Will a policy like parental leave be put into place to safeguard the jobs of those parents who have to step back from work to care for their children?

For many families, it’s that uncertainty that makes it near impossible to properly prepare themselves or their children for next month.

In our family, this would have been the first year both our kids are in school. After juggling some form of daycare, help from grandparents, and flexible work schedules for the past seven years, we looked forward to this year as the one where we “made it.”

Keeping up with online schooling while holding down a full-time job is impossible, no matter what magazines and mom-bloggers tell you. Women still tend to be disproportionately the ones who make sacrifices at work when the kids need care; stepping back from the workforce just when policies that will most affect them are put in place would be a mistake.

Parents need more leadership from the Province, and we need it now. Families need to know there is a backup plan and safety net they can depend on. It’s the Province’s responsibility to provide schooling; online classes for elementary school and relying on parents to indefinitely juggle the impossible just doesn’t cut it.

Ada Slivinski is the Founder & Principal of Jam PR, a boutique agency focused on helping small businesses get big exposure. You can reach her at ada@jampr.co

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