Two agencies are filling in with in-person environments this week while schools get ready to open on Monday.
The YMCA of Greater Halifax and Dartmouth and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Halifax both pitched in when the province’s schools were closed due to COVID-19 outbreaks.
The YMCA welcomed 100 students into their newly developed Y-school on Monday. The free program allows kids to do online school with peers in a supervised setting outside the house.
Chief development officer Lorrie Turnbull said as soon as the government announced the delayed start to in-person learning, she knew there would be a demand for the service.
“We’re very aware that children, youth and of course their families are really bearing the brunt of closures and lack of extracurricular activities,” she said.
Turnbull said some families don’t have the time or resources they need to support their child through online school.
The program was a “simple decision.”
“We have the spaces, we have the staff, we have the resources, so we offered the program,” she said.
The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Halifax also offered opportunities for kids to get out of the house and socialize while schools prepare to re-open.
The organization is continuing their after school programming in local community centres this week to “provide a place for kids to go after classes so they can have time out of the house to socialize,” said after-school program leader Charlotte Varner.
Both organizations are adhering to Nova Scotia’s public health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within their programs.
Nova Scotia’s Pediatric Advisory Group says “the risks to children and youth from not providing in-class learning outweigh the current risks related to Covid.”
The group showed their support for the return to in-person learning in an open letter to parents on Jan. 6.
Dr. Sarah Shea, one of the signees, is a developmental pediatrician at the IWK. She said when students are online, they’re missing out on in-person academic support from teachers. They also don’t have the opportunity to interact with peers in a social setting, one of the most important learning pathways for children.
“They’re still in the process of developing their brains and experiences matter,” she said. “You can’t entirely just make up for it all later, which is why we really do need to do everything we can do to keep kids in school.”
Additionally, Shea says there’s concern that when kids don’t have out-of-home opportunities, neglect and abuse are less likely to be identified.
“Kids who are growing up in families who for whatever reason are not functioning well need to be in an environment where they can have positive experiences and positive role models,” she said.
Turnbull says the YMCA is used to pivoting to meet needs and will be watching for any changes in provincial policy on open schools.
About the author
Maryanne McLarty is a Halifax-based journalist from Oakville, Ontario. Her interests include listening to true crime podcasts and baking. She...