OPINION: Grade school students don’t have a voice during COVID pandemic

As adults weigh pros and cons of returning kids to school, is anyone asking kids what they think?

Ever have one of those moments where you’re in a room with other people and they’re talking about you like you aren’t even there?

Annoying, isn’t it?

Welcome to the life of every school-aged child, right now.

While adults discuss the “should we or shouldn’t we” of a return to studies in September, kids are seen and not heard. It seems absurd, because who has more at stake than them? They’re the ones who will be sent back into a high-risk environment after being told for months to do their part to keep COVID-19 at bay.

“Sorry you can’t see Grandma, but COVID.”

“I know you looked forward to a prom and a big graduation ceremony for years, but COVID.”

“You can’t go hang out with your friends because COVID.”

“Okay now, back to school you go.”

I live with two children who are quite confused right now. My daughter is 13 years old and will be going to GW Graham for the first time and my son is 11 years old and is heading into year one at Mt. Slesse.

READ MORE: B.C. would not send students back to school if there was ‘overwhelming risk’: Horgan

READ MORE: Answers to five common questions facing families for the COVID-19 school year

Because their mother has multiple sclerosis, they’re acutely aware of physical distancing and masks and doing what they can to keep her safe.

With B.C.’s infection numbers rising back to the levels they were at when in-person schooling ended last March, neither of them understands what’s changed for the better, and why it’s now safe to go back.

My daughter goes back and forth on a return to school. On one hand, she misses her friends and she struggles with online learning and the inability to get instant help/feedback from a teacher. On the other hand, COVID.

My son is more resolute. He too misses his buddies, but he doesn’t want to go back to school until it’s safe.

Totally unprompted by myself or anyone else, he wrote down his thoughts Sunday night. Other than light editing for punctuation and spelling, this is what he put down on paper:

“I don’t want to go, not because I don’t want to do math or other subjects. It’s because I have a family I care about. I really don’t want to see them sick. I’m happy that everyone like the Prime Minister and Dr. Bonnie Henry are trying to help, but I don’t think re-opening schools is doing any favours. Now I get people need the schools but the schools are putting everyone at risk. I think us kids should have the choice. I see that you are interviewing parents and teachers about the schools, but if you think about it, us kids are there all the time. Why not ask us?

“I think us kids should get to speak up in this pandemic. Maybe consider giving us the choice to go or not, or give use completely no school because I know that there are many families and they don’t want to catch COVID. I just want to make everyone safe so don’t re-open the schools.

“Now let us kids speak up. We are just as important as anyone else.”

If we took the time to have open, honest talks with all of our children, how many would express similar sentiments?

How many are feeling anxious? How many are worried sick that they’ll bring the virus home to their families? How many have been asked how they feel?

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of adults to make decisions in the best interests of children. Ulimately, maybe their input would mean nothing. But just this once, during a once-in-a-lifetime (hopefully!) nightmare of a pandemic, shouldn’t we ask them a few questions?

“What do you want? What do you need? What can we do to keep you learning and keep you safe?”

Don’t they deserve to have a voice?


@ProgressSports
eric.welsh@theprogress.com

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