According to the government of Ontario, children in Kindergarten to Grade 3 are encouraged, but not required to wear a mask at school. Photo credit: Jocelyn Galloway

As the school year begins, parents enrolled at Algonquin College try to balance the health and educational needs of their children while starting their own studies.

Every parent of a minor has had to make the decision to either choose remote learning or send their child to school. These are the two options for parents to weigh while trying to navigate their families’ need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages.

For student Rana Albaw, the decision to keep her child home was one she does not regret despite the challenges it brings.

“I’m not relaxed at all,” said Albaw. “I thought, ‘When school begins, I’m going to keep her at home and monitor what is going around.’ Thank God I did, because I’m seeing relatives of mine getting the flu and doing COVID tests. Now they are all panicking.”

Rana Albaw has lived in Canada for a year with her husband and daughter. She said the move from Lebanon was a difficult one for her daughter, who is now five. The transition to school was hard during the last school year. Just as she was beginning to adjust, COVID-19 forced the school to close.

In addition to her difficult school experience, Albaw’s daughter has a history of requiring medical attention when fighting viruses such as the common cold and flu. This is not a risk Albaw is willing to take. She is still waiting to hear back from her daughter’s school about the remote learning.

Yet, Albaw is determined to keep pursuing her own educational goals. She started the media and communication program this month and is enjoying it.

“I don’t care what the conditions are,” said Albaw. “I have to do this. It is for myself.”

The normal school experience is what Albaw longs to have, but she said having her camera on during class has been distracting for her peers and herself. She said she hopes her professors will be understanding with attendance and the camera being off as the semester continues.

Chao Li is another student parent who has decided to keep his child home and participate in remote learning. His son started his first class on Friday, Sept. 18.

As an international student from China, Li does not have a lot of support other than his wife, who is also a student. Li was originally in the journalism program in the winter and decided to switch programs this fall to script writing.

“When we could go to campus, I could have a whole block of time to dedicate to learning, but now I have to cut my time,” said Li. “I am really concerned about the grade I am going to get in the end.”

When asked if the college was doing anything to accommodate him in his studies, Li said he is not aware of anything and even if there was, he does not think he would be eligible due to his international student status.

He said if the college could provide a forum for international students or students with kids that would be helpful. He said to the best of his knowledge there is not.