School starts in two weeks. If you are like our family, you are both very excited to have the kids out of the house and back to learning, and at the same time very nervous about what the fall will bring. Will students and teachers be safe inside schools? Will there be another outbreak as kids mix and mingle beyond the bubbles we have become accustomed to? Will school close again in another month? There are some families who simply don’t have a choice about sending their kids back to school, and must do so. There are other families who, after weighing the risks, have decided that their kids need to stay home and learn online.
I think everybody agrees that for the sake of our kids’ development, mental health, for their families’ work and financial situation, and for safe workplaces, back-to-school has to work for everybody -- kids, families, teachers and other staff.
Since March, our local Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore, has led an effort which has successfully contained outbreaks of COVID-19. Dr. Moore has said publicly that KFL&A public health has the resources (testing, contact tracing and, of course, public cooperation) to cope with the expected increases in COVID-19 cases after schools re-open. Public Health is working with the school boards and post-secondary institutions on plans for school re-opening. This is worth keeping in mind.
The bottom line is that we’re still in the middle of the pandemic. Since schooling is an essential activity, it has to be protected in the same way we have tried to protect the rest of our society and economy -- by deploying one-time, substantial government resources to facilitate physical distancing and to limit the extent of social circles.
Two Week Time Bubble
Whatever the final plans are for re-opening, and we all realize there are not limitless resources, there are steps each of us can take to help, starting now. The charts attached are taken from our local KFL&A Public Health website. Note the peaks for the initial outbreak in April and the “nail salon” outbreak in July. With isolation, contact tracing and community cooperation, both peaks were flattened out in about two weeks.
It seems to me that the ultimate backstop for any back-to-school plan in Kingston, which would give me confidence as a parent, is to have a low incidence of COVID-19 to start off the school year.
What we all can do to help
This year, the back-to-school to-do list will include extra items to address the pandemic, but let’s all try to make the very first item a renewed focus on social distancing during the two week bubble before school starts. We can try our best to stamp out any embers of COVID-19 by careful social and physical distancing starting now, two weeks before the doors open.
What better way for the whole community to contribute to the safest possible back-to-school season?