In August, SMILE hosted a 4-part Back to School Series to address concerns that parents have raised regarding returning to school in September. This month, SMILE hosted parents, public health professionals, educational professionals and lawyers to gain different perspectives on returning to school.
*Please note: these conversations cover a variety of perspectives -- Please contact your local district school board, public health guidelines, lawyers, therapists, and or family physician for information tailored to your situation.
Part 1 - A Parent's Perspective
In the first part of the Back to School Series, SMILE's Program Coordinator, Javeria Siddiqui, hosted SMILE mom, Lindsay Ahmed. During this conversation, Lindsay addressed her fears surrounding the return to school during COVID-19.
Lindsay addressed her concerns about her children's mental well-being, the difference in the environment, how children will practice physical distancing, and the burden it will place on faculty and staff. Lindsay hopes to gain clarity and transparency before deciding between sending her children to school or adapting to the e-learning model.
Watch the full video below!
Part 2 - Public Health Guidelines
In the second part of the Back to School Series, SMILE's Service Navigator, Sarah Uddin, hosted Policy Advisor and Public Health Professional, Zahraa Saab. During this conversation, Zahraa discussed the importance of following public health guidelines that have guided the past five months, including good hand hygiene, physical distancing, mask-wearing, maintaining a social bubble, and more.
Zahraa also made recommendations to parents about carrying extra masks during school, washing clothes daily, and carrying disposable utensils for lunch. For more information about public health guidelines, please contact your local municipality.
Watch the full video below:
Part 3 - Addressing Disability Rights and Inclusion
In the third part of the Back to School Series, SMILE Assessment Team Member, Aisha Siddiqui, hosted Dr. Ashleigh Molloy, Ph.D., Educational Professional. Dr. Molloy addressed the difficulties that children and youth with disabilities will face while returning to school because of the changes in the environment related to the nature of their disability.
Dr. Molloy recommends keeping open channels of communication with your child's teachers, faculty, and Principle. While you are anxious, please keep realistic expectations of the faculty and staff for appropriate response time. In addition, school boards are increasing measures to ensure children's safety, including hiring medical professionals to deal with any symptoms that were not prevalent before. For information about the disability supports in your municipality, please reach out to your school district's website.
Watch the full video below!
Part 4 - Education and Your Legal Rights
In the last part of the Back to School Series - Education and Your Legal Rights, SMILE's Education and Outreach Coordinator, Naima Ismail hosted Melanie Battaglia, Partner and Saquiba Rahman, Associate, Pooran Law. During this conversation, Saquiba and Melanie provided families with the following resources as guidelines for returning to school.
Ontario Autism Coalition: Action Tips for Parents to Prepare for School Re-Opening: https://youtu.be/ZB78Wt9TJGk
Special Education Funding Guidelines:
Watch the full video below! Please note: This video will only be available on SMILE’s Facebook Page until Friday, September, 4 2020.
A Teachers Perspective:
SMILE also asked Natasha Khan, a teacher with the TDSB and friend of SMILE, about her concerns with returning to school, and she said,
"My biggest concern is that going back into the classroom will trigger a second wave. With the cold season around the corner, I also wonder how testing will be managed given the similarity of symptoms between a common cold/flu and COVID-19. I've heard of other teachers planning on carrying belt bags or aprons with sanitizer/wipes easily accessible so I might do that as well. Despite the concerns, I personally am looking forward to having a routine again, and plan to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst."
We want to thank all the individuals who participated in SMILE's month-long Back to School Series. We appreciate your support of providing up to date information to SMILE families during these uncertain and unprecedented times. Each family has different perspectives and opinions based on lived experiences, limitations and barriers in our daily lives.
For more information about your specific situation, please visit your child's local district school board, public health officials and family physicians. We hope that the decision that you make is the best for your family and wish you a safe and happy return to school.
If you have any concerns, comments or questions regarding SMILE's Back to School Series - contact SMILE at email@example.com