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Ont. families navigating return to school

Ont. families navigating return to school

Some students are learning remotely while others are doing a mix of in-class and at-home schooling

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

Ontario students and parents are almost one month into the new school year and the many pandemic-related changes associated with it.

From physically distanced desks to wearing masks all day, these are just a few of the new realities that come with receiving an in-class education during COVID-19.

With schooling at top of mind, Farms.com reached out to some members of Ontario’s ag community to find out how their families are adjusting to the new learning environments.

Jessica Pasuta, a cash crop and livestock producer from Hamilton, Ont., has a daughter in senior kindergarten doing distance learning.

Close family members also live on the Pasuta farm, meaning three elementary-aged kids are learning remotely at the same time.

The adults have created a rotation system to help with learning, Pasuta said.

“One day I’ll have all three of the kids, one day I might only have two and then there are times where it’s just me and my daughter,” she told Farms.com. “This way, we can give the kids the attention they need for schoolwork while also still getting some things done on the farm.”

A typical day starts with the teacher outlining what the day’s tasks will be. Then, the adults help the kids with their assignments away from the computer and check in with the teacher throughout the day.

Pasuta’s daughter is receiving more of an involved learning experience, which she appreciates.

“How long can you expect a five-year-old to sit in front of a computer and retain the information?” she said. “I find I’m having to do a lot more from a time perspective, but I think it’s better that she’s getting the hands-on learning time. We’re all just doing the best we can, the teachers are too, and we just have to get through it.”

Kathryn Doan, a turkey farmer from Norwich, Ont., has three daughters doing in-class learning in Grades 1, 3 and 6.

The young girls have attended school on a staggered basis with half days on Mondays and Tuesdays and full days on Fridays.

It’s been a welcome return for them, Doan said.

“The first day, they were very excited to go,” she told Farms.com. “I think we forget sometimes about their mental health and how much COVID-19 has impacted them as children. They were so happy to have structure, new teachers and to see their friends.”

All three of Doan’s daughters are required to wear masks while at school.

That part of the adjustment has been challenging, but the teachers have been good at giving students breaks, Doan said.

“Wearing masks all day is hard, however, the teachers have been great about creating times that they don’t have to wear masks outside,” she said. “However, I worry about the cold and wet weather coming and how they will be able to keep doing this.”

Sending children back to in-class learning comes with extra steps for parents or guardians.

The COVID-19 school screening form helps adults determine if their child should attend school each morning based on questions about any potential symptoms a child may have.

“It’s stressful as parents,” Doan said. “The list of symptoms that you have to make sure they don’t have is long.”

Cathy Hendriks, a beef producer from Wingham, Ont. has a daughter in Grade 11 who’s schedule rotates weekly between in-class and remote learning.

With an independent teenager in the house, Hendriks isn’t needed for help as much as parents of younger kids.

“She can do everything herself,” Hendriks told Farms.com.

As a student in the eleventh grade, Hendriks’s daughter must wear a mask while in school.

It’s just another part of her routine, Hendriks said.

Her daughter is “old enough now where she understands why we need to wear masks, so there’s no argument or anything about having to wear one,” she said. “I’m sure she and other kids would rather not wear them if they had the choice, but if that’s what it takes to get through this, then they’re pretty good about following the rules."

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