Though the school year only recently ended, the upcoming year is already dominating the thoughts of many. With the rapidity at which everything can change during the coronavirus pandemic, uncertainty remains whether students and teachers will return to school campuses come autumn.
Earlier this month, Rocky View Schools (RVS) released a preliminary plan outlining possible scenarios – a full reopening of schools, staggered cohorts with only a portion of the student body in attendance at a time or continued online learning – and advised parents to be prepared for any of the three (see story page 3).
The strong preference in the school division is reopening schools. That's understandable; for parents that aren't full-time educators, suddenly having to closely monitor their child's learning was no doubt challenging.
Our thoughts are with parents. While none of our reporters have school-aged children, we recognize parents are currently in a bind as they weigh the risks of sending their children back to school versus the benefits of having them back in the classroom.
Further complicating the matter are the unknowns around how children transmit the virus and increasing evidence that COVID-19 spreads quickly indoors. In evaluating the scenarios, officials must also remember it's not just about children – family members, teachers and other staff may fall within the demographics most at risk.
It is challenging for everyone to walk the line between caution and comfort in their daily lives. Cases in the communities we cover have stayed relatively low, but that does not change the fact that COVID-19 can spread rapidly through the population. Our staff – and we're sure most of our readers – are trying to strike a balance between taking the pandemic seriously and not being overly fearful.
Whatever happens in September, we hope officials – from the Alberta government down to RVS – will prioritize the safety of students, their families and the teachers and staff working to educate them. Even if schools open in September, we hope that decision is made soberly and not in a rush to resume a semblance of normalcy.