School’s out… again

Employer patience may be tested as many schoolkids are forced to learn from home again

School’s out… again

So, the kids are home yet again. As the COVID-19 virus continues to pummel our lives, schools across the country are being forced to embrace the online environment once more.

In Ontario, elementary students are doing their studies from home for a week after the Christmas holidays, while secondary students are staying home until Jan. 25. But that could change as COVID cases and hospitalizations continue to rise.

A similar situation is happening in Manitoba, where students from Grade 7 to 12 have shifted to remote learning for two weeks following the winter break. In Quebec, the holidays were extended until Jan. 11 but now it’s looking like elementary schools will remain closed until Jan. 18, while high schools will reopen on Jan. 25.

I have a 17-year-old son who’s very capable of logging in, chatting with his teacher and classmates, following the lessons and getting his work done. And his teachers have done an amazing job despite the circumstances. So overall, I’m able to focus on my full-time job at home despite my son “going to school” just down the hall.

While I wish he was able to enjoy all the benefits that come with in-person education, I understand sacrifices have to be made, and hopefully these many months of upheaval won’t have too much of a negative impact on his long-term prospects.

What I can’t imagine is working parents with young children or children with special needs at home. The attention they require, the unexpected calamities, the whole new world of online learning, the technological glitches, the interrupted video calls, the meal times and snack times… we all know those can add up to a full-time job so I’m really not sure how parents who are working from home manage to find a balance.

I’m sure it means a lot of late-night hours catching up, so I’m hoping employers are providing the empathy and flexibility employees need to work effectively. Back in the spring, there was a lot of talk of employers giving working parents time and space to figure out the new arrangements, though many mothers and fathers weren’t necessarily feeling the love.

But nearly 12 months later, are employers being as accommodating? And exactly how far should that accommodation go?

Hopefully by now people have figured out some kind of setup that works for all sides, but I’m sure it’s frustrating for employers, for parents and for their children as we endure the uncertainty of this pandemic.

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