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COLUMN: School shutdown hits local family with a gut punch

'The last 48 hours or so have been filled with worry, concern and conversations with friends and family about how we will make it work,' writes Nikki Cole
2021-04-13 Online learning
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It’s not like I didn’t see it coming, but Monday’s announcement from Premier Doug Ford that kids would not be heading back to class after the April break left me feeling like I’d been gut-punched.

As I sat watching and waiting for the words to actually be said, my stomach churned, my heart sank, and my anxiety soared. 

There were tears  and not just my own.

My six-year-old, who absolutely loves school and is an extremely social kid, started to sob after learning she wouldn’t be seeing her teachers or her pals again anytime soon.

My nearly five-year-old is only in her first year of school, and has grown so much thanks to having two of what I think are the best 'kindie' teachers in the county.

I know they’re going to miss out on so much and it breaks my heart, because there is simply no way we can re-create that experience for them.

As I made calls looking for reactions on the news for a story, my oldest snuggled in and cried some more, before sitting upright and saying: “Mommy, I am super sad I won’t get to be in school… but at least I will get to see all of my teachers' faces.”

If I am Eeyore, then my 'Little B' is definitely Tigger, with her ability to see the positive in pretty much everything, so I am going to do my best to try to follow her lead.

This has been beyond a tough year for everyone  students, parents and teachers. We have been blessed at our school in that there have been no known cases of COVID, but who knows how long that would have continued.

I have several good friends who are teachers  some of whom are required to go into multiple classrooms a day due to their role, and a few who’ve even seen their classrooms shut down after being exposed to the virus.

I can’t even imagine the fear and stress that must have caused, worrying about if they may have brought it home to their own families. So for them, I am relieved.

The last 48 hours or so have been filled with worry, concern and conversations with friends and family about how we will make it work.

The last time around, my husband and I were able to divide and conquer between the two kids, which made it much more doable, but most people don’t have that option. We no longer have that option, either. But, like last spring and like the first eight weeks of this year we  along with every other family in Ontario  will find a way. 

My own kids are young, too young to really be left to their own devices before something shiny catches their eyes and distracts them from “school,” so depending on how long this shutdown lasts, we may end up finding an alternate way to “do school”  even if that means simply playing in the backyard and looking for letters or numbers in the trees.

There’s a reason neither of us went into teaching, so we aren’t even going to try to re-create what our kids do at school. We have decided to cut our kids, our teachers and ourselves a break.

All we can hope for is that the number of cases in the community go down quickly (and stay down) so we can get our kids  and our teachers safely back in to the classroom because the educators I know would much rather be in the classrooms teaching than sitting in front of a screen trying to wrangle the attention of two dozen kids on a computer.

And I know the kids — and the parents!  feel the same way.

Nikki Cole is a staff reporter with BarrieToday.