Parents challenged by school closures as classes resume online


Parents on the island are once again scrambling to find ways to cope with COVID-19 school closings, with online learning set to continue for at least two more weeks.

Classes resumed from winter break on Wednesday, but with schools closed due to increased COVID-19 cases until at least January 17, students will have to stay home a bit longer.

The situation creates challenges for many parents, who now have to balance work and caring for their children.

Tracey Gairns-Brioux has four school-aged children. She works from home and her husband is a teacher, so both parents will stay at home while schools are closed.

Tracey Gairns-Brioux says her older kids can do their schoolwork online independently, but her younger kids need supervision. (Steve Bruce / CBC)

But Gairns-Brioux said the situation was still difficult, especially with two young children who might need more attention.

“It’s really hard to put on the mom’s hat, the teacher’s hat, and the homework hat at the same time,” she said.

“I have a hard time going back and forth, and it’s difficult.”

No time to prepare

Ashley White, a rehabilitation assistant at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, faces the same challenges.

With two school-aged children and a three-year-old, White said it was a bit “overwhelming” to have to take on the role of a teacher on top of all of her current responsibilities.

White said she asked for three days off a week to be able to look after her children. She also applied for the federal caregiver benefit to compensate for the loss of income.

“Understanding him wasn’t that difficult. It was more stressful of it all because we weren’t sure before [Tuesday] it was happening, ”White said.

“We had it in mind and we were thinking about it. But it’s different when you’re told it’s like that right now and that’s what you’ll have to get used to right now second. You don’t have it. time to really prepare for it. “

White said not knowing when classroom learning will resume adds to the stress, and she sympathizes with parents who have not been able to find accommodations for the situation.

Ashley White says she applied for the federal caregiver benefit to make up for lost income. (Submitted by Ashley White)

“Obviously you want to do what you have to do and what you can do for your kids,” she said.

“But I mean, you need an income. And if you don’t have any other options, well, you don’t have any other options.”

Greens call for more support

Opposition MP Hannah Bell said she had heard similar concerns from many frustrated parents.

Bell said the government announcement on Tuesday left many families scrambling to figure out what to do next.

She said the supports currently available to parents, such as the provincial special leave fund, are too limited and their eligibility criteria should be broadened so more people can receive them.

“We need programs that really reflect reality. And the reality is that most households in PEI have one working parent, sometimes two. Not all households have friends and family they can count on. meaningful, ”Bell said.

Bell said the province should remove some of the restrictions that limit the amount people can receive from the special leave fund and expand eligibility for self-employed people on the island, including those in customer-facing jobs. or commission jobs that are currently exempt.

“Don’t make it so hard to get people to ask for help. If you want help, give them help,” she said.

“We have the money. We have unspent money in our COVID fund that we received from the government … Ninety-eight percent of the money that we received here is from the federal government , and we still have money in those unspent funds. That’s when you spend it. “

The province said it is currently working on a plan to offer additional help to parents. He said more details will be announced on Thursday.

In the meantime, Gairns-Brioux has said she expects the situation not to last long and for now, she is making day-to-day plans.

“[The children are] all are a little tired of COVID, and it’s a little sad because the two younger ones hardly remember much from life before and they keep asking when it’s going to end ” , she said.

“I think the older kids are definitely going to miss their friends. But I think we’re going to keep trying to remind them that it’s gonna be a short time, we’re gonna see them soon. It’s gonna be better, we just gotta try to work together. “

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