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'It's a scramble': Teachers, parents frustrated after Ontario moves to online learning

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Toronto -

Both parents and educators in Ontario are expressing frustration after the provincial government's last-minute decision to shift school to online learning for at least two weeks.

"I think that we're all disappointed that we had to be in this place where schools are being closed to in-person learning again," Peel District School Board high school science teacher Jason Bradshaw told CTV News Channel on Tuesday.

Ontario had initially announced on Dec. 30 that in-person classes would resume on Jan. 5 after the holiday break. The province had said that delaying the start of school by two days would allow time to deploy additional safety measures, such as HEPA filter units and free masks.

But on Monday, amid an explosion of COVID-19 cases and rising hospitalizations driven by the Omicron variant, Premier Doug Ford announced that classes would be moved online when school resumes, until at least Jan. 17.

For Toronto mom Jessica Sennet, the late announcement has thrown a wrench in all her plans.

"I'm just kind of trying to do my very best to kind of pivot and shift as much as I can while making sure my son is taken care of. I know a lot of parents feel the exact same way. We're just trying to hold it all together," she said during a CTV News Channel interview on Tuesday.

On top of navigating online schooling for her six-year-old son, who she said is too young to sit in front of the computer without supervision, the Ontario announcement has also affected Sennet's business, which provides fitness classes for new moms and moms-to-be.

"I've already had to go ahead and cancel my indoor classes. I've had classes all around the city scheduled and I was scrambling yesterday, cancelling and working on refunds," she said.

Bradshaw says he would've liked to have been given more notice of the impending closures rather than seeing an announcement two days before school was about to begin.

"I think that the constant last-minute changing is actually causing a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety on students," he said. "If nothing else, I do wish that in the future we'd have more time and more notice when we know exactly what's going to be happening

Bradshaw says his students have been, for the most part, patient and understanding with the constant pandemic disruptions to their high school experience.

"I've been very impressed with young people who I think have faced the challenges and sacrifices they've been asked to make with a lot more patience and resiliency than a lot of adults have," he said.

Both Bradshaw and Sennet are crossing their fingers, hoping that this will be the last time that schools move online.

"I don't know what we will do if it extends. I think it's a much larger issue if the kids can't go back to school permanently or for a longer period of time," said Sennet. "But I think we'll be OK for the two weeks.”

In the meantime, Bradshaw is hoping that the province can make the most out if this time to install HEPA filter units in all schools, acquire enough masks and vaccinate all students and education workers.

"The work needs to begin today," he said. "It needs to begin right now, day one, or else this time is going to be wasted and we're going to find ourselves back from the same situation again."

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