OTTAWA -- Staying productive and motivated, managing screen time and restrictions on extracurricular activities were the biggest challenges for parents and students in Ottawa's public school board during the COVID pandemic school year.

Meantime, students and parents are concerned about readjusting to the workload and routine of school after the summer break and feeling unprepared for the next grade level when school resumes in September.

The Ottawa Carleton District School Board conducted a survey of parents and students to reflect on the past year during the COVID-19 pandemic and look ahead to the return to school in the fall. A total of 7,023 students in Grades 7 to 12 and 7,761 parents of children in Kindergarten to Grade 12 participated in the survey.

The 2020-2021 school year included two extended periods of online learning for students, after the Christmas break in January and then from April until the end of the school year.

The survey found just seven per cent of students in Grades 7 to 12 described their overall well-being at the end of the school year as "very good", while 24 per cent said good and 34 per cent said fair. Nine per cent of parents graded their child's overall well-being as "very good", while 28 per cent said good and 35 per cent said fair.

The majority of in-person students and parents said they were comfortable with the health and safety precautions taken by the schools this year. A total of 71 per cent of Grades 7 to 12 students said they did not find it challenging to follow the health and safety protocols, including wearing a mask all day in school.

CHALLENGES

Students in Grades 7 to 12 listed their biggest challenges of the school year as;

  • Staying productive and motivated
  • Finding it hard/distracting to learn from home
  • Managing screen time and/or time spent working online

Parents of students in Kindergarten to Grade 12 said the biggest challenges were;

  • Managing my child's screen time
  • Restrictions on extracurricular activities
  • Finding ways for my child/children to engage/interact with peers

More than half of parents and students said teachers were available to provide support "often" and "very often" during the school year.

NEXT SCHOOL YEAR

Looking ahead to the return to classes in September, students in Grades 7 to 12 said they have several concerns about the new school year:

  • Readjusting to the workload and routine of school after the summer break
  • Coping with stress or anxiety
  • Feeling unprepared for the next grade level

Students told the OCDSB more information about the school day schedule, access to extra help with school work when needed and regular updates on COVID-19 cases and vaccinations in the community will be helpful for the fall.

Seeing friends and being able to socialize is the most important thing for Grades 7 to 12 students returning to school in the fall, followed by extra-curricular activities and special events and celebrations.

Parents of students in Kindergarten to Grade 12 also have concerns about the new school year in September.

  • My child readjusting to the academic expectations of school
  • Mental health and well-being
  • My child being unprepared for the next grade level

Parents told the OCDSB things to help the transition back to school in the fall included more information on the school day structure, support for developing better routines for school and continued safety precautions.

The Ottawa Carleton District School Board says it will use the information to help develop plans for September.

You can read the full results of the OCDSB survey on the board's website.