COVID-19 concerns has some Manitoba parents looking at alternate education plans

Manitoba students are set to head back to the classroom in the fall, but some parents are feeling apprehensive about sending their children to school amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

The Manitoba Association of Schooling at Home says they’ve seen an influx of parents inquiring about homeschooling options.

“Homeschooling might be the route for some folks because what the government has put out is not going to be helpful if children or staff and teachers have family who are immuno-compromised or they might be dealing with anxiety, so there are going to be people who are looking for alternative ways to educate,” said Rachael Fecyk-Lamb, an advisory team member with MASH.

Fecyk-Lamb says in the past 24 hours, the association has received more inquiries from parents and some parents have already signed up as new members.

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“Just since the decision came out people are reacting and looking at options,” she said, also noting they’d already seen an uptick of interest in homeschooling over the past month.

Read more: Coronavirus: All Manitoba students to head back to classrooms this fall, says education minister

The province says remote learning will be in place for students who have been medically advised not to return to in-class learning due to COVID-related risk factors. If students are not medically advised to stay home, options for families include public school, independent school, or home-schooling.

Some parents say they wish the province provided more options for those who aren’t comfortable sending their kids to class.

“My major concern is that they haven’t released other options for back-to-school, it’s just the classroom learning and I was hoping there would be multiple options available for parents that want something that’s a safer option,” parent Natasha Pereira said.

Pereira says she feels keeping her children at home is a safer option.

“I have five children. Three are in school full-time — it’s hard to expect them not to be in contact with other children, it’s hard to expect them to be able to keep that distance with their classmates.”

Coronavirus: Manitoba health officer outlines safety parameters for return to school
Coronavirus: Manitoba health officer outlines safety parameters for return to school

Henry Okonkwo’s children aren’t school age yet, but he says he would prefer to keep them home rather than send them to class.

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“I believe we have used the daycare system as a test and now we want to replicate that for the school system,” Okonkwo said. “If my kids were to be going to school at this time, I would probably not allow them to go.”

Read more: Manitoba’s back-to-school plans garnering mixed reaction from parents

But that’s not an option for everyone, like Slyvie Gautron, who is a single parent.

“I have no choice, my kid has to go to school and she has to got to daycare because I need to work,” Gautron told Global News.

“I can’t defer my mortgage anymore, I can’t defer my car payments any longer, I need to work.”

Gautron also says she has concerns about contingency plans in place.

“As much as I have an awesome support system with my family, they’re all over 60,” she said. “And it scares me. Let’s say school is on hold again and I have to continue working — I’m putting my mom, aunts and uncles at risk because my child has been around who knows how many kids at school. So that ripple effect — it’s tough. I have no choice. I’ve got to get to work.”

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