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EDITORIAL: Students' return too school shows it is never to early to start planning

The year 2020 has forced us to become extremely adaptable while accepting that the future is fluid and unpredictable.

The year 2020 has forced us to become extremely adaptable while accepting that the future is fluid and unpredictable.

The uncertainty created by the COVID-19 virus has made it difficult to plan and anticipate what the needs of the community are in the coming months, and it is commendable how organizations are adapting to this new reality to the best of their ability.

The preliminary plans for students’ re-entry into the classroom released by Rocky View Schools on Thursday (July 9) serve to highlight how challenging it can be adapting for all possible futures we may face during the pandemic— But, also highlights how some families may be left behind depending on how things play out.

The plan released by Rocky View Schools includes three potential scenarios— In-school learning, blended learning and at-home learning.

While we are all hoping to see students return safely to school, these scenarios are all at the whim of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Superintendent Greg Luterbach has acknowledged how challenging the times are, and more importantly the toll the continued sacrifices people are making are taking on the mental health and vibrancy of families.

Luterbach said for many students, school life is much more than classroom learning. It’s a space to socialize, engage in extracurricular activities, and form deep bonds between peers. With many extracurricular programs being cancelled, monitoring the mental health of students will be crucial in the coming months.

However, there is the hidden toll that is not always apparent— The critical role school can play for families where parents are working while their children are in the classroom.

Many families, especially single-parent households, rely on school as a form of childcare. Luterbach said if Rocky View Schools is forced into blended learning or at-home learning they are ready to provide what support they can to parents in terms of at-home learning— But, childcare will not be feasible.

“Families are going to have to have some contingency plans built around what life is going to look like, suddenly if we have to move out of One and into Scenario Two or all the way to Scenario Three for either a short time or a long time,” he said. "We certainly appreciate that it’s hard on families and as our society and as our economy is trying to get up and rolling, again, it’s hard for families to have those contingency plans because school is such a big part of .... the lives of our young kids.”

Families will be unable to rely on the school's secondary function as childcare if the second wave of COVID-19 hits the province, and that could leave the most vulnerable family units, including single-parent households, in hot water.

If things get bad enough it could mean that people have to rely on extended family or even neighbours for childcare, which could put more people at risk in regards to the virus.

The Alberta Government is expected to announce which of the three scenarios school will return under on Aug. 1, but it's never too early to start planning.