With most children about to return to in-person classes for the first time in 2022, some parents are cautiously optimistic about the Newfoundland and Labrador government's decision to drop online learning — but others are less sure it's the right thing to do.
On Thursday the province announced schools would reopen to in-class instruction, and most kids will be back in school on Tuesday.
Matt Luft, a father of three from Gander, said his kids are eager to get back in the classroom.
"We are cautiously happy," Luft told CBC Radio's Newfoundland Morning on Friday.
"We give them the information, minus the emotion. We try to give them the information they need to know that we're all doing the best we can."
Heather Delaney, a mother of three from Summerside, said her kids are thrilled about getting to see their friends and teachers again in person.
She said the pivot to online learning was harder on her kids in 2022 than it was last year.
"Their motivation this time just hasn't been present and therefore they haven't been present. It's been a tough one this go around for them for sure," Delaney said.
"I think prior to this shutdown they were getting that sense of normalcy. They were able to play with their friends at recess and lunch time, they were getting back into their sports, and then I feel when it was taken away again they really struggled."
Still, both Luft and Delaney say they feel a little anxious about sending their kids back into the classroom.
Petition for online option
Amanda Rideout of Stephenville, meanwhile, started an online petition earlier this week calling on the provincial government to offer an online learning option. The petition had garnered more than 2,100 signatures as of Friday morning.
Rideout says she wasn't happy with Thursday's announcement about returning to in-class instruction.
"It seems like they have just completely flipped the page. They just seem like they're not concerned with the virus anymore," Rideout told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show on Friday.
"With cases so high right now, our children are going to get it. I think it's too risky for the schools to be open right now."
Rideout lives with her sister, who has three children, two of whom are under 11 years old and have had just one dose of vaccine. She said her father also has Stage 4 cancer, making COVID-19 that much riskier.
"We have a highly immunocompromised house, and if COVID comes into our house it really is the difference between life and death," said Rideout.
Focusing on the classroom
Rideout said she understands the benefits of returning to school, including mental health boosts and safe spaces for children who have problems at home, but an online option would benefit everyone.
Education Minister Tom Osborne said Thursday that the hybrid model tried last year, with half of the students learning from home and half attending classes in person, wasn't popular with teachers, students or parents.
"It didn't work as well as either online learning or in-class learning," Osborne said. "And we all know the risks of isolation and so on of students online learning. The best place for children to be is in the classroom."
Newfoundland and Labrador English School District CEO Tony Stack said there's simply not enough resources to pull off in-person and online learning simultaneously.
Rideout said her sister will not be sending her kids to school on Tuesday.
"The benefits that they would get from going to school do not outweigh the risks posed by COVID-19 coming into our home," she said. "It's out of the question."