Groundwork: Parents feel cut off, one school reconnects with outdoor classroom

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Kristine Edgington, then chair of the school council, remembers feeling weepy and discouraged as she watched her youngest disappear into the school without her on the first day of school. Then she pulled out of the parking lot, turned the corner and saw all the kindergarten parents, waving and taking pictures of their kids from the sidewalk. The teacher was reading a story in full view.

It was a loss restored, even in the midst of the pandemic.

“It’s so hard not to go inside,” Edgington said. “What a beautiful thing (the teacher) made happen.”

Edgington shared the anecdote during the Groundwork consultations last week, then agreed to share it publicly. Nearly 140 parents, teachers and education specialists filled out the Edmonton Journal survey. Eleven people joined to talk in-depth about the challenges through our virtual office hours, and several others sent in tips and comments by email.

They talked about how they miss volunteering around the school and informal connection that fostered. They miss popping in to ask questions at the office. One had questions about health protocol and in response, a principal sent out a link to the Alberta Health Services page. It’s just not enough, the parent said. Parents need language they can understand and a relationship.

Other participants raised the issue of support for special needs children, worried the pandemic is only exacerbating the impact of provincial cuts. Still others believe Alberta’s isolation requirements for children are too broad and those stuck at home could be left behind. Or they worry about the impact of health protocol on children’s ability to learn, or worry that those protocol aren’t keeping children safe enough. Many worry for stressed teachers.

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