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Cape Breton parents have mixed views on Nova Scotia's updated back to school plan

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SYDNEY, N.S. —

Krista Logan loves the school her children attend and all the staff there.

However, she and her partner have decided not to send them back on Sept. 8 because they're not comfortable with the province's back-to-school plan during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The plan includes having 100 per cent of students back in the classroom, all teachers and students in grades 4-12 wearing masks and ventilation maintenance.

"I think it is unreasonable that they aren't providing an online option for students who are at a higher risk...One of my children has a weak immune system and catches things very easily. He also will not wear a mask all day. I think they need to provide families, who are worried and have children that could fall victim to COVID, an online option," said Logan, whose five children range in age from four to nine. 

"I don't think back to school is best for everyone. Mine will be staying home until we feel it is safe for them to return."

Janine Thorne, who lives in Sydney River with her two sons and husband, also has concerns about the Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood Development's plan. 

"I'm nervous about this school year," said Thorne, who isn't considering homeschool her sons who are in Grade 6 and Grade 1. 

"Even before this proposed plan, the rumours that are floating around do not sound very appealing for kids. Staying in their classroom all day, no cafeteria, lowered socializing, masks, not heating up lunches...It's going to be interesting and challenging." 

Thorne's oldest son has low to moderate ADHD. She hoped starting middle school and being able to move in between classes would help him focus as he struggles sitting all day. Now she worries the health protection measures will do the opposite. 

But it's not only her son she's worried about. 

"I feel bad for the teachers. If COVID happens in their classroom, they only have 20 sick days. If they have to quarantine for 14 days, they only have six sick days left?" she said.

"Or what if they exhibit symptoms and have to stay home for a week and then quarantine afterwards, if they find out they have COVID? What then? That is their whole sick time used up. I don't know what the solution is but it sure makes me nervous." 

"I don't think back to school is best for everyone. Mine will be staying home until we feel it is safe for them to return." — Krista Logan

Amy Keeping and Shannon Murphy both feel in class is the best place for their children to be. 

"I think our kids are more adaptable than we give them credit for and won't have as many problems with (the health protection measures) as most adults seem to," said Keeping, a married mother of two whose daughter is starting middle school and son is in elementary.

"I think they need to be in school. They get so much more out of school from interacting with their teachers and friends than they ever could with online learning...Also, teachers engage with our kids in ways we don't even realize. They see different sides of their personalities, know when to push a little harder or when to pull back." 

Murphy, who lives with her daughters and husband in Northside East Bay, agrees school is the best place for her girls. Both are in high school and during the province's stay-at-home orders Murphy witnessed the negative effects of not seeing their friends had on them.

"Like most parents, I'm nervous about sending my daughters back to school, but I feel that we do need to learn to navigate this new reality for their education, social development and mental health," Murphy explained. "Nova Scotia's back-to-school plan seems to have covered all the basis for health and safety." 

However, Murphy, like many other parents, does have unanswered questions after reading through the plan's highlights. 

"I would like to hear more about procedures for handling common school year illnesses like colds and flus," she said. "Will it be assumed that any child with the sniffles may have COVID-19?"

Keeping also has questions. 

"I'm wondering what gym time and outdoor time will look like," she said. 

"I know I'm speaking from a place of privilege, where neither of my kids need aids or individualized attention, so that makes it harder for others but I'll be glad to send mine back to school." 

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