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Column: Back to school

Rhea Jones' monthly column Dear Mom and Dad
Rhea Jones 030 copyA

Back To School; the three words every student desperately tries to avoid.

Three words that mean early mornings, long days of learning, and most of all the end of summer holidays. However, this year those three words mean something entirely different. This September, it’s not going back to school that kids dread. In fact, with the way school ended last year, kids have a new appreciation for being able to learn in an in-person environment. What they do dread, is all the new regulations and changes that have been made due to COVID-19.

Some of the rules include mandatory masking in common or crowded spaces, limiting locker use, cutting all sports and extra-curricular activities, and switching to a quarterly system. While it is comforting to know that our school division is doing all they can to ensure the safety of staff and students, we have to ask how this will affect our education.

It has been common knowledge for years that for kids to be successful learners as well as healthy individuals they need physical exercise, social interaction, different learning methods, and other creative outlets. Now all of a sudden all school sports are postponed band, choir, and other arts programs are no longer available, and we have to stay two metres apart from our friends.

Cutting all extra-curricular activities is creating an environment that is only going to be successful for strictly academic learners. For many students, sports or arts were the sole appeal of school. With that gone, we’re sure to see more kids struggle in this environment. Removing all social aspects of school goes against all our previous efforts in creating successful, innovative, and well-rounded new minds.

The welfare of our youth is an important priority, but with zero deaths in Alberta for people under 19, the real threat to kids and teens is their mental health. We need to ensure that we don’t jeopardize our psychological well-being by directing all our attention and efforts towards physical health. Yes, COVID-19 is a serious issue, but let’s not forget that stress is a killer too.

Another thing we have to ask is whether or not these measures will be effective. We’re switching to a quarterly-system in attempts to cohort groups of kids. The problem is, as soon as the bell rings at the end of the day, kids are going to do as they please. Come the weekend kids are going to spend time with their friends, and it’s unlikely that they will be masking or social distancing. So are these new regulations really worth the effort when at the end of the day you can’t stop kids from being kids?

While there are endless unknowns about the upcoming school year, there’s one thing we know for sure; it will be unforgettable. Teachers, staff, parents, and students will simply have to work together to make learning as comfortable for everyone as possible. While kids aren’t ecstatic about the new changes we are all still very grateful that we have the option of in-person learning and appreciate all the work teachers have done to accommodate the changes. Ready or not, here comes September.

Rhea Jones is a French immersion student at Foothills Composite High School who loves to write and share her ideas. Her goal with her column Dear Mom and Dad is to encourage youth to read and participate with the Western Wheel.