BCEdAccess receives ongoing reports from families who are experiencing distress. This morning a parent contacted us to say they are now seriously considering signing a voluntary care agreement for their child since they heard extending the school break is a possibility and they don’t think they will make it that long. We are heartsick.
News headlines about potentially extending the break add to uncertainty and overwhelm. If there is going to be talk about extending the break, there also needs to be emphasis to parents that help will be there. In fact, the COVID-19 operational guidelines already say school support has to be available. Families need to know this and be reassured.
It’s already been a difficult year for families. Those facing systemic barriers were already under great strain. Many, who needed more in-home support or childcare, were already struggling. These families need access to year-round 8 am to 6pm supports so they can work and thrive, and so their children can access all the supports they need without interruption.
Generally parents are unable to schedule or plan caregiving with this uncertainty. There is a loss of social opportunities much needed by disabled children and youth in particular. This creates havoc for people with low or no income, and creates a challenge for those who must work. Children could be left at home alone. Some are in family structures that are barely functioning financially, emotionally or otherwise.
We want it to be clear that we do support increased safety measures such as smaller class sizes, a reduction in density of student numbers, hand washing, mask wearing where possible, physical distancing, barriers, air circulation and ventilation, increased surface cleaning, and other interventions in place…but continued and ongoing access and support is needed for students made vulnerable by systemic barriers like the ones that have been made glaringly visible with this pandemic.
Not all students facing barriers have designations and many students may not even be visible or known to need supports. It may be hard to tell that a student in an unrecognized but difficult family environment depends on the social connections they have at school. Some come from families already stretched to put resources like even childcare around their children. Some students need the social supports and work experience opportunities so that they can be ready to leave the home and support themselves upon graduation. Others need social skills and education support.
The easiest move if reduction in numbers of students at school is required would be a move to Stage 3 or 4. This framework already exists in the Operational Guidelines. We hope that clear communication is forthcoming on this issue to reassure parents and students that those who need to be at school can still attend, as per the Ministry of Education plan.
Some Impacts of Extending the Break
● More stress/strain on parents and caregivers already under too much
● Lost work time for parents/caregivers
● More physical demands
● Students who need the support of school community may be isolated at home
● Lack of access to food, menstrual products, community resources, therapies, interventions
● Loss of respite time
● No extra funding being offered
● CERB is gone
● Keeping kids busy and entertained takes financial resources
● Caregiving costs are high and not all families have access to out of school care. Moreover, if students are in out of school care, it makes more sense to keep schools open than shift a financial burden to families.
● Some families depend on settlement and family supports and referrals