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Editorial: Even now, our kids belong in school

In-class learning balances competing needs
Kids Raising HandsNOvisibleface
Despite valid concerns about the Omicron variant spreading, kids belong in their schools.

After an extra week of winter break, most of the North Shore’s 20,000-plus students are back to school this week.

For many families it wasn’t completely without concern, as the school restart coincides with a surge of the fast-spreading Omicron COVID variant. Other jurisdictions, like Ontario, chose to delay the school restart an additional week.

On balance, however, B.C.’s decision to re-open schools remains a sound one.

Granted, different families have very different levels of risk tolerance, depending on both their world view and their circumstances. Those headed by single parents and/or those whose parents don’t have the option of working from home have far fewer options.

The decision made this time is a very different one than was made at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. There was much we have learned about COVID since that time. Significantly, we know that vaccines significantly limit our risk of serious illness from the virus.

We also learned from previous school closures that for many children, online learning was a struggle. We learned that kids who fall behind academically sometimes don’t catch up, even long after school is back in session. And there’s a real toll on kids’ mental health when schools are closed.

For much of the pandemic, kids have borne the brunt of many decisions in order to protect older generations. But keeping kids out of school for weeks or months is a strategy that is not sustainable in the longer term, especially as COVID – in one form or another – will likely be with us for the long haul.

Choosing to allow kids back to class is the right thing to do, despite the challenges it presents for us.