As the mother of two school kids, I know what it is like for parents as our kids return to school. Much of the traditional excitement has been replaced with worry and uncertainty.
Like parents across Delta, and the country, my husband and I had serious conversations about what option would be best for our family. I know many families will keep their kids home for the year or will take a “wait and see” approach. I respect these choices and am grateful we have these options in Delta.
We see COVID-19 numbers rising in B.C. and across the country. We hear about people refusing to wear masks, and about parties and gatherings that are causing outbreaks. We listen closely to Dr. Tam and Dr. Henry.
My husband and I decided on in-person schooling and took our kids to orientation last Thursday. We held their hands a little more tightly and nervously chatted with other parents through our masks while socially distancing. It was harder than usual to leave them. The kids gathered on the field and bravely walked into the school with a quick wave, six feet apart from their friends.
I am grateful to the Delta school board, teachers and staff. They are taking extraordinary steps to keep our kids safe. They are nervous and worried, too. They are putting themselves at risk. But they made it easier for us parents last Thursday — and for our children, who came home with smiles on their faces (under their masks) excited for the adventures that the year will bring.
This reminds me that despite everything that is different this year, many important things are the same. Our kids will reconnect with their friends — and make new friends. They will be taught by teachers who care about their learning, well-being and personal growth. They will learn new words and explore big ideas. They will play and laugh. They will jump in puddles in the rain, lose mittens, and forget water bottles.
We will remind them of how lucky they are to live in this community, in this country, at this point in history.
Throughout this pandemic, all levels of government have worked together to keep our communities healthy and safe. The Government of Canada is investing up to $242 million in B.C. through the Safe Return to Class fund to adapt learning spaces, improve air ventilation, increase hand sanitation stations, and purchase personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies. This will go a long way in ensuring our kids are healthy and safe.
As Minister of Employment, I know a successful return to school is an important step in economic recovery. Not all sectors are re-opening at the same pace and many people are still out of work. We have adjusted our federal support programs and are transitioning people from CERB into EI and creating new recovery benefits for job loss, caregiving and sickness.
Which brings me back to the COVID-19 numbers. We are still in a crisis. We crushed the curve before in B.C., and we can do it again. We know what we have to do to keep each other safe.
We are all in this together. For my part, I will continue to work hard for Delta and Canada. Please know my team and I are here for you, and ready to do whatever we can to help.
I wish you and your family a happy and safe return to school.
Carla Qualtrough is MP for Delta and minister of employment, workforce development and disability inclusion.