Updated: Sep 12, 2020
The $10,000 question that plagues all families: What are you doing for back to school?
Actually, it is more than a $10,000 question because how much is a human life worth? Infinity dollars, that’s how much.
As September creeps towards us, I’m losing trust in our provincial government like water from a leaky boat. I’m not the only one – Beth Dangerfield has written an eloquent post about what’s going on in the province of Ontario.
Similarly, this newly-released BCEdAccess, BC Parents of Complex Kids, Family Support Institute of BC and Inclusion BC survey of families and students from my home province suggests that flexibility and clarity is in order.
I have not forgotten that things here in British Columbia were all rah-rah when the pandemic began.
I won't venture into armchair epidemiology, but the relatively low COVID numbers in the spring were due to a dash of luck and the willing quarantine of citizens. (Remember: Even a low COVID number means that people still got SICK. And that people DIED). With the daily COVID updates in March to June, I slowly grew to trust the government bureaucrats and politicians.
But as is the BC way, officials were quick to applaud themselves and hand out awards to each other. When the strip clubs reopened, I was like, ‘hmm, are strip clubs really an essential service?’ Doubt began to creep in and the boat began leaking.
This summer, British Columbia’s luck has run out. The COVID numbers are climbing right at the exact same time as school is looming. My trust in the government is wavering. The thing about trust is that it is really hard to get back once you’ve lost it. This school planning fiasco has been quite the litmus test for the government about what really matters to them.
Today I read this quote on CBC from Laurie Larsen, chair of the Surrey Board of Education, She said, “…some students will not return because of underlying health conditions.”
Offering a solution that automatically excludes those with underlying health conditions is outright discrimination. Students with health conditions deserve access to a public education just like everybody else.
And if these excluded students don’t return to school, what is to happen with them? Here in BC, we have been offered two options: in person schooling or homeschooling. There has been no suggestion of an online learning choice as we had in the spring.
My challenge to our educators is this: Create a school environment where ALL students are universally safe, starting with those students who have underlying health conditions.
This could be the chance to finally do inclusion right. Put including everybody FIRST, instead of reluctantly tacking on disabled students like some after-thought, which as been what has been done over and over again throughout my son's past 15 years in the education system.
We can lean on folks like Dr. Olaf Kraus de Camargo who offers up the creative concept of reverse inclusion and borrow from Shelley Moore's philosophy of universal design. School districts - there are lots of great ideas out there. You do not have to figure this out on your own.
A universal-design model is the answer to pandemic learning. This is where you begin by creating solutions where everybody can be safe at school. Then everybody wins, not just some students!
I know that school is important and that most kids get many positives from going to school. But do students benefit from going to school during a pandemic when the environments are so unsafe that they exclude students with underlying health conditions?
My head is spinning now. I'm but one mother, yelling into the wind. The only thing I can trust right now is my own gut.
We all have to figure out what the right thing is to do for our own children, because the government is not helping, not one little bit. It is up to us, as individual families, to make sure our children are safe. The government is not going to do this for us anymore. Trust your gut and it will not fail you.
I'll spend the next two weeks clearing the clutter from my head so I can gain clarity about what to do. Will our son return to school in two weeks to complete his Grade 12 year? Right now, I honestly have no freakin’ idea.
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