Parents, health unit ready for kids to return to class Monday in Renfrew County
ARNPRIOR -- There is relief among parents in Renfrew County heading into the weekend, with the knowledge that their children will resume in class learning on Monday.
"Can’t even explain that I am so glad these kids are going back to school," says Jessica Panciuk of Arnprior, who doesn’t have the luxury of working from home. Panciuk has a 12-year-old daughter in Grade 7 that she has to leave home alone during the day to learn.
"She needs that socialization with other children, other adults, her teachers. So she’s taking it pretty hard. She’s actually really excited to go to school on Monday."
The Renfrew County and District Health Unit was one of seven health units given the go ahead by the province to send children back to class on Monday. It is a move the region’s medial officer of health pushed for and says is desperately needed.
"We’re delighted,” says Dr. Robert Cushman. “These kids need to go back to school. They need it for their education; they need it for their mental health, their social lives. And not only that, the parents of so many students are working parents so this is a driver of the economy.”
That’s something Sophie Smith-Doré knows about well. She runs her own business from home, Musclebound Mama, as a food and nutrition coach. Smith-Doré has a 14-year-old son in Grade 9 and a four-year-old daughter in junior kindergarten.
"I went from working 8 hours a day to working 1.5 hours a day, and then managing children the rest of the time," says Smith-Doré. "Learning from home has definitely had a negative effect on students and families, no question."
When elementary and high school students return to class on Monday, it will be the staff the health unit will be keeping a close eye one, rather than the students.
"The biggest issue really is that staff are only five per cent of who is in a school and yet they were 40 per cent of our cases,” says Dr. Cushman, who warns staff and students not to let their guards down when they return. He also points out an area of concern that needs improving.
"During lunchtime, we’ve seen too many problems with lunch rooms whether it be in a health care setting, or any other work setting."
While parents and the health unit are in agreement that students returning to class is the right move, there are still questions as to whether a school shut down was ever needed in Renfrew County.
"I mean you’re going to have a couple cases here and there," says Panciuk. "Honestly, closing the schools, not really, I think they should have went back to school."
"I believe that it had to happen,” says Smith-Doré. “The reason Renfrew County has been so safe is because of the actions and steps we’ve taken in order to remain that way.”