Coronavirus: Parents brace for school, work disruptions ahead of uncertain school year

Toronto mom Emma Trousdale would love to send her two kids to school full time.

But even if she chooses that option over remote learning, she expects they’ll end up spending a considerable amount of time at home.

“Someone’s going to get a cold or a cough — probably not COVID, but you’re going to be keeping someone home, like, all the time,” says Trousdale, whose kids are set to enter grades 1 and 4.

“That’s a big reason why I (also) don’t want to send them back — because then at least I know what my day holds. I can make a plan.”

A little over two weeks from her school’s start date, various guidance plans are still evolving, leaving Trousdale with many questions about how COVID-19 precautions will disrupt learning for kids, work schedules for adults, and where and how to get tested, if needed.

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Read more: Ontario government releases guidelines for dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks in schools

She considers herself lucky to be flexible enough to accommodate last-minute upheaval _ she’s self-employed and her husband works from home. But she acknowledges not everyone can drop in and out of work for two weeks at a time to supervise quarantined kids.

Parents need more certainty about what the school year may look like, agrees Dr. Camille Lemieux, faulting Ontario’s current testing strategy for not including enough measures that could limit the number of kids and staff who may be quarantined, and the length of time they’d spend out of school.

Lemieux, who runs the COVID-19 testing centre at Toronto Western Hospital, suggests “serial testing” could ease pressures on families unable to take time off work if their child is exposed to COVID-19 at school and ordered home.

“So you don’t say to every single child, ‘You have to stay home for 14 days.’ You make that testing accessible to those families, and you test them not once, but you test them two and three times under relatively rapid succession and then you can be fairly certain that they’re negative,” Lemieux says.

Ontario’s guidelines stop short of requiring tests for suspected cases and their close contacts by merely recommending or strongly encouraging tests, although such individuals are directed to isolate, contact public health and follow medical advice.

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The guidelines also encourage retesting if symptoms develop after a negative test.

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