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By Theresa Goodwin

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Despite assurances from education officials that everything is in place to safeguard the health and safety of students and teachers come September 7, many parents are still questioning if they should send their children back to school amid fears of coronavirus contagion or homeschool them using virtual learning tools.

Earlier this week, the education ministry announced a slew of plans for the new academic year in the Covid-19 era, including a phased return to school and smaller classes.

But, for some, the measures outlined have done little to address the concerns of those parents who were forced to add teaching to their list of skills when school closed in March.

“I watched the press conference online and I listened intently. However … I am still not sure about what the environment at school will look like and how my children will adapt to the changes. My youngest child was diagnosed with asthma a few years ago and loves to socialise. How do I advise her to stop doing what comes naturally for her?” a mother-of-two said.

The single mom holds a full-time job which sometimes gives her the option to work from home while caring for her six-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son.

“It’s hard to call people and conduct interviews with Paw Patrol on in the background or conducting a meeting on Zoom and other electronic platforms and having to stop to play peace-maker in the middle of a shouting pack between both siblings,” the woman added.

A father who spoke to Observer also explained that his daughter “won’t keep the mask on to go to the grocery store, let alone sit in school. She’s not going to understand why she can’t sit so close to her friends. So, I think it’s almost a fear of not knowing”.

That fear is something another parent explained he is familiar with as well.

“You have a lot of different kids coming from all different backgrounds and it’s a lot having to get them on the same page where everyone is practicing social distancing,” the man said.

He further stated that his children want to go back to school and he wants that too. But right now, his family is still undecided.

The phased return to schools will see kindergarten and grades one, two and six go back the week commencing September 7, while students in grades three, four and five will return the week after.

Some public institutions will operate a shift system. In those circumstances, week one will be for kindergarten, grades one, two and six only, and in week two all classes to include grades three, four and five will operate under the shift system.

For schools with small student populations, the phased-in approach to include the shift system will not apply.

Social media users were also invited to share their views on the ministry’s plans. Many are of the opinion that each parent would have to choose the best option that suits them, giving consideration to their work schedule and the information shared by administrators at the various schools.

Some are also in support of the home-schooling option, depending on one’s ability to accomplish it successfully.

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