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A Cautiously Optimistic Back-to-School

As the back-to-school merchandise and advertisements worm their way into our collective unconsciousness, I can’t help feel my shoulders tensing and my fists clenching. Here we go again – diving into another gray cloud of uncertainty for our children. 

The relief we all felt in June when the school year finally ended still feels very fresh as we prepare for another back-to-school season. My kids and I do not miss the neck-breaking news flashes, the last-minute decisions about in-person vs. remote learning, the exhausting flip-flopping of guidelines and procedures, and the dreaded hours of screen-staring madness. We all secretly hoped that the summer would bring streams of delightful news about this unyielding virus disappearing once and for all. And while our province did exceptionally well with vaccination rates, the uncertainty of our school year still looms like the stench of burnt toast that takes forever to clear the kitchen.

The Science Table – along with countless other reputable organizations – believe that in-person learning is essential for our kids’ physical, emotional, and developmental well-being. I am willing to bet that most parents who facilitated and witnessed remote learning would whole-heartedly agree, especially for our youngest school-aged kids. So, I am quite pleased to see that the Ontario government is taking the right steps and following these recommendations. Early in August, they released their Guide to Reopening Schools and it’s looking quite promising for our kids.

Our kids will be used to many of the protocols that will remain in place: face masks, cohorting, regular hand hygiene, and distancing protocols. But they will also be excited to get some of their normal activities back. Students will be able to participate in regular music classes, assemblies, sports, extra-curriculars, and even field trips! And while many of the details still need to be ironed out before the first day of school, I remain cautiously optimistic.

It’s not lost on me that this plan comes on the heels of the extremely infectious Delta variant appearing and threats of a possible fourth wave. Since school-aged kids cannot be vaccinated, I can’t help to foresee these plans changing several times. Once again, we parents will be asked to be adaptable and flexible and once again, we will guide our kids as they go through a horde of emotions. By now we’re pretty much experts at this, right?

I keep telling myself that it’s ok to prepare for the worst, but I still hope for the best and that our kids have an exceptionally “normal” school year.


Frank Emanuele is a proud father of two boys, a special education teacher, and a director of Dad Club London.


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