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GTA parents weigh difficult back-to-school decision

Last Updated Feb 3, 2021 at 5:23 pm EST

With the news Toronto, York and Peel kids are set to return to in-person learning on February 16, parents say they are facing a difficult choice.

Parents in Ontario’s COVID-19 hot zones tell CityNews they worry about their children’s ability to learn remotely and pick up key developmental skills. However, with daily case numbers still above 1,000, and new variants of the virus at play, they’re unsure of what to do.

“It’s a tough question,” says Keri, a mother of two who is also a high-school teacher. She says she’s been in a constant state of anxiety when thinking about what comes next.

“What I think is best for my family in terms of their safety is to stay home. What I think is best for my child in terms of mental health is to go back to school,” she says. “I can’t really find a way around those and I know everyone is trying to juggle and find a way to marry those two options.”

Anne is in the same position, she also teaches high-schoolers while at home with her two boys.

“Overall, it’s been hard,” she says, adding that not enough has been done at schools to make teachers and students safe, despite the government’s plans.

“On paper what they said they’re going to do, sounded amazing, however in September we didn’t see a lot of the things they said were going to happen,” she says.

RELATED: Students in Toronto, Peel, and York returning to school on Feb. 16

Both teachers say they would really like to see vaccines rolled out for educators as soon as heath care workers and long-term care residents receive their doses. They also say they’re pleased with the expansion of rapid testing in schools but are apprehensive about how it will work.

“I have definitely laid awake at night wondering if these new faster-moving variants will be spreading throughout communities,” says Dana, a mother of two. “But I am not concerned enough to sacrifice the mental health of the kids.”

She’s been running a small business from home while coaching her seven-year-old son through virtual learning. She says being away from the school is taking a noticeable toll on children, with some in her community developing anxiety problems and regressing academically and emotionally.

“We have a lot of friends and kids who are in therapy now who weren’t before,” she says.