The number of students enrolled in the public and Catholic school divisions of Regina and Saskatoon increased during the pandemic
Some parents say they send their children back to school because they think it is safe spaces for children.
“If the mandate for the mask hadn’t been announced, then I don’t think we would have sent my son to school,” said Laura Antymniuk, mother of one in kindergarten.
According to the most recent enrollment data available to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education, Saskatoon public schools have 25,777 students enrolled in Kindergarten to Grade 12 this year, an increase of 497 pupils compared to last year.
Catholic schools in Greater Saskatoon have an overall enrollment of 19,571 students, an increase of 102 students from 2020.
Regina Public Schools have 24,591 students enrolled, an increase of 300 from last year, while Regina Catholic Schools currently have 11,186 students enrolled, an increase of 37 students.
Antymniuk, who runs a business with her husband in Saskatoon, had to be off work for five months at the start of the pandemic last year because day care was closed and her two sons were at home.
She said all children deserve the experience of going to school and understands the increase in enrollments as more parents find schools relatively safe.
âIn fact, I don’t have anyone close to me who has looked after their children at home. Everyone around me has chosen the same path,â she said.
Antymniuk said she was worried her son would go to kindergarten, but said the whole process was about balancing the risks.
âOur son was so excited for kindergarten and it’s a monumental life event for the whole family, not just for him. Even though we were in a position where we could choose to keep him at home, I don’t know. if we would make that decision, âshe said.
Children need schools for their overall development
Madhura Suhas Ghaskadvi is the mother of a six year old son in grade one at James L. Alexander School in Saskatoon.
Even when COVID-19 outbreaks were declared at school, she was confident in school health protocols, although she did not send her son to school the next day after receiving the ‘opinion.
“I was in a confused state of mind, should we send it or should we not? But then I thought the school was doing its part, and with cases happening everywhere, how many time can we keep our children at home? ” she asked.
Online learning was never a preference for Ghaskadvi, who was a teacher in India. She said that the physical environment of a school is crucial for a child’s overall growth and social development.
Ghaskadvi, who moved to Saskatoon almost a year ago, also feared her son might not be able to make friends and fit into the education system if she kept him in online learning.
âBecause our mother tongue is not English, if he does not listen to the language, the child will not understand it. At home we speak our mother tongue, Marathi, so school is currently the only source for him to learn, speak and understand English, âshe said.
However, some parents still choose online learning for their children.
Mother of two Katherine Stevenson said the vaccine may not work for her seven-year-old son who suffers from primary immunodeficiency.
âPeople with Down syndrome have an imbalance in their immune system, not just an impairmentâ¦ It also has a risk of overreacting to the COVID-19 vaccine,â she said.
Due to his health issues, his son is attending grade 2 online this year.
The Department of Education’s aggregate enrollment data also includes students who have opted for e-learning.
Stevenson removed her daughter from preschool and placed her in an outdoor school to ensure her son, who had complications with other viruses before the pandemic leading to hospitalizations and stays in care intensive, is not affected.
Although her son needs educational support that is more focused on visual learning, which is not ideal with online classes, Stevenson said it was his only option. Seeing COVID-19 outbreaks in schools, she feels satisfied with her decision.
“I think we made the right decision. We tried to provide some stability and predictability for the children, so that we don’t have to face epidemics or make the decision to take our children away. It doesn’t matter. what is happening in the community [with COVID-19], it’s just the same routine here, so I like it, âshe said.
Stevenson, who is also part of a group trying to start a school for immunocompromised children, said the school would be a good place for children like his son.