Note: This post considers whether schools are safe for us to return to and is also directed at parents and families who are considering homeschooling

Now that the heatwaves of summer have arrived I’m about ready for fall. Kidding and not kidding. I enjoy summer. It feels like cold weather is so long in Canada that I am glad for the warm months – and gladder the older I get.

But on a serious note, I do get a feeling during mid-summer when I find I am looking forward to a change in season. And fall is not far off is it? When I think about the near future September is definitely on the horizon and approaching fast. The Big Question: Are my children going back to school or staying home with me to homeschool?

I think there are two groups of people who are contemplating September and have fear and concerns about going back to the old way of doing things – students and workers. Some will be returning, albeit in some modified manner to school. Others are returning to work. Offices will slowly re-open. Different kinds of businesses are entering phases with returns to work. Of course teachers and admin staff will be returning en masse as well.

Some parents and teachers are anxious after hearing the government of Ontario’s announcement that while high schoolers are going back on a hybrid format of online and face-to-face, elementary students are ALL GOING BACK. The province talks about averages of 20 kids per class but here in Toronto we know that this is a lie. There can be 25-30 kids in some classes.

This interview from the CBC is enlightening. The description reads, “Nancy Hanna, a mother and teacher living in Toronto, says she’s concerned about the Ontario government’s plan to reopen schools in September.”

What do you think? Will schools have issues with children in close proximity during fall and winter? Will there be issues with screening?

Will sick children and staff people come to school and infect others? The answer seems to be yes but it’s a question of how extensive the effect will be. Stories have emerged from places like Israel about failed school re-openings.

In Ontario thousands have signed a petition demanding reduced class sizes in primary grades.

A CTV report says: 

“The petition, launched on Saturday by Toronto resident Kelly Iggers, alleges that the province’s strategy would put students at risk while allowing for the spread of COVID-19.

“The Ontario government’s ‘plan’ for reopening schools essentially amounts, in most elementary and middle school grades, to sending 30 students and a teacher back into a room for six hours/day with poor to no ventilation and probably only enough space for 30 centimetres of distancing between desks,” Iggers writes.

View the petition

On many levels I agree. I am familiar with the issues the TDSB and other school boards around the country have with buildings in a state of disrepair.

Organizations like Fix Our Schools have documented the broken down heat and cooling systems, water supplies and other core elements of schools which require a multi-billion dollar repair bill.

Will students have classes outdoors in September? Sounds goof but what happens in late October before Hallowe’en when some daytime temperatures are in single digits? Now we’re back to full-time in the classroom.

And will classrooms have adequate hand washing and sanitization protocols and implementation? I am doubtful. Kids will be kids and teachers and cleaners will take short cuts. It will be inevitable.

In similar news, 6 staff and teacher’s unions at the University of Toronto have also created a petition 

A CBC article explains:

“Until the safety of students and workers can be guaranteed, in-person learning, teaching, librarianship, and other academic work should be paused,” the petition reads.


The petition, signed by more than 2,800 people, calls on the school to follow the lead of other Canadian universities and pause most “in-person teaching” in favour of online learning.

While I am concerned about our family’s health in the context of a return to school I fear for the older adult staff at schools. Our kids will hopefully be entering and departing on staggered schedules, which may include half days or off days or alternate weeks. So their contact with others will be lessened. However the teachers will have to mingle with all of them. And it seems as though the grown ups are most likely to get sick, and if they get sick, get severely sick. That’s troubling.

It’s a worry to me too. My children could catch the Coronavirus and bring it home to me or my wife and they might be fine while one of us could suffer and even be hospitalized. That’s why we have been super cautious this spring. While single people and those without children are enjoying their adventures through re-opening phases and arrival of summer, families tend to need to be more cautious and limit their adventures, especially in the city.

Don’t get me wrong. Since June we have been getting outdoors and feeling more comfortable about trips around the neighbourhood. We are happy the Ontario daily numbers of virus infections are in decline. We are even optimistic that even without a vaccine, we can keep this social distancing up, keep wearing masks and maintain the low numbers that mean we are “saying safe” as the expression goes.

But re-openings, and returns to school along with cold weather and flu season will surely result in outbreaks and even the potential of the dreaded second wave. And that has me worried. Our bubble has just been our little family. And now even if school somehow returns with say a 30% capacity bubble system with small groups of students interacting it still means we expose ourselves to hundreds of other people via this interaction of our children.

I don’t know if I’m ready for that. It will be a little like the first nerve-wracking trips to the grocery story or drug store after the pandemic broke. That was a surreal time. And slowly we got used to it. Our ”new normal” as another expression goes. I suppose if things go ok with relatively few outbreaks that September can turn to October and November and we will be used to our new school schedule and situation.

I admit that I have considered, like other parents, keeping my kids home and starting homeschooling full time. In effect with a rotating schedule we will become part-time home schoolers as we become de facto instructors for our children on modified schedules.

I am also willing to take the chance on a return to school this fall should numbers continue to decline and show no signs of spiking back up. It’s been a stressful time. And I crave the hours I spent on my own, without my children. I could work from home. I had time for myself. I miss that.

September always means back to school and this year it brings so much uncertainty. How are you feeling about it? Are you, your friends and family, ready? It’s not far off!

Thank for reading! I wish you and your families and all the education staff a safe September. 

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Other links:

Report by The Hospital for Sick Children which says schools must prioritize reducing class sizes to keep kids safe. 

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Author Mike Simpson is an educator and trainer in Toronto. Contact him for teaching, design or e-learning projects. Students looking for one-on-one tutoring may also reach out!