We’re just days away from bells ringing – or buzzers sounding – to mark the beginning of another school year.
And, unfortunately, it also marks the return of great uncertainty.
The latest COVID-19 outbreak has thrown hopes for a “normal” school year into a tailspin.
We can’t know for sure how things will transpire over the months ahead. More learning from home? Perhaps. Alternating times that students report for classes to reduce the number of people present in schools and aid social distancing? Maybe. The cancellation of all extra-curricular activities? A distinct possibility.
These potential developments would be a real letdown, but what can we do?
The school boards are treading carefully, trying not to give any false direction. To that end, a joint letter from all three school districts on Aug. 25 was quickly retracted. Instead, the school districts reverted to a previous communique: they’re “monitoring the COVID-19 situation.”
We do know that some school activities are out: there will be no theatre productions or drama classes, singing and playing musical instruments are a no go, high-contact sports will not go ahead.
Chief public health officer (CPHO) Dr. Kami Kandola ordered that, as of Aug. 26, masks be worn indoors in public places once again. So students can expect to “mask up” for the foreseeable future.
Naturally, children are going to look to their parents for guidance and they will, to some degree, model their behaviour and reactions. Some level of disappointment is natural. Questioning the need for or extent of certain public health orders is understandable.
But for parents who rant, exhibit rage or who encourage their children to defy the rules that the CPHO or the school boards institute as protections against the spread of COVID-19, well, that’s not productive or helpful in the least.
Part of our education as young men and women is to crack open the history books and read quotes from famous people, often privileged white men (history is skewed that way). American architect, inventor and author Richard Buckminster Fuller would qualify in that category, but he shared some wise words that seem applicable to the circumstances we find ourselves facing:
“Everything you’ve learned in school as ‘obvious’ becomes less and less obvious as you begin to study the universe. For example, there are no solids in the universe. There’s not even a suggestion of a solid. There are no absolute continuums. There are no surfaces. There are no straight lines.”
No straight lines. That is most definitely where we’re standing at this moment. We know vaccines are helpful, but they’re not 100 per cent effective. We know masks limit the spread of germs, but they’re not impenetrable, at least not the standard ones.
So we just have to follow best practices, because that’s what has repeatedly shown to keep COVID-19 numbers in check — again, not without exception.
Of course we’re all tired of this situation. We’d all dearly love for these major inconveniences to go away.
Matthew Miller, president of NWT Teachers’ Association, knows that many parents want gym classes, band and choir to resume. Let’s face it, it’s only harder for educators who have to try to impart lessons to students who can’t burn energy through physical and creative outlets. But those programs won’t return yet because, as Miller said, “we need to trust the advice of the chief public health officer as the expert.”
Let those among us with a medical degree and experience in prevantative medicine be the first to say otherwise.