Isolating for up to two weeks due to possible COVID-19 exposure is a real worry for some students returning to the classroom next week, says a mental health co-ordinator with Red Deer Public Schools.
Trevor Pikkert said students are almost more afraid of isolation than catching COVID. Isolation separates them from friends, and could interfere with summer activities if their at-home quarantine extends past June.
“They have plans. They don’t want to be in isolation when summer starts and they can’t go to their camps or anything that could possibly be running starting in July,” Pikkert said.
Earlier this month Alberta students were sent home for two weeks after a spike in COVID-19 cases. On Thursday, the province shortened the quarantine time based on a person’s vaccination status, but only those with two doses can avoid quarantine as long as they aren’t experiencing symptoms.
Pikkert said younger students in particular want to be at school where they can see their friends, and those who will be transitioning to another school in September will not be able to participate in the usual orientation activities which helps bring down their anxiety.
“We’ve done a lot on those transition pieces to help kids be more successful. Because of COVID they’re kind of missing out on those.”
As the end of the school year approaches, he said students preparing for post-secondary may be getting worried about keeping up their grade point average after not getting the same class time with teachers this year. Others will be concerned about qualifying for high school classes in the fall.
He said when classes went online students could not access tools and school facilities for option classes, from art to car maintenance.
“Those are their outlets. Those are their cup-fillers. Schools did what they could based on the rules to have students still connected to areas they love.”
He said school staff worked hard to assist kids throughout the pandemic.
“Teachers, their imagination through this whole thing to try and help the kids, has just been second to none. Everyone stepped up.”
Pikkert said students will have to work through the grieving process for school trips that were called off, cancelled 18th birthday parties, and graduation celebrations that may not happen.
“(Graduation) is a big right of passage into adulthood. We didn’t have that last year. Who knows what’s going to happen this year.”
Some students and their families have also mourned loved ones they lost to COVID, he said.
“(COVID-19) is stressful for everyone and kids aren’t any different from adults. We’re all kind of feeling the effects of it,” Pikkert said.
On June 3, the province is hosting a virtual Mental Wellness Day for Schools to support and recognize the resilience of students, parents, teachers and staff.
Activities include a performance and message from Alberta country music singer Brett Kissel, inspirational messages from the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and others, and fun age-appropriate activities.
To accommodate busy end-of-year school schedules, most sessions will be recorded and available to view online afterwards.
“The resilience of our students, parents, teachers, support staff, administrators and everyone in our education system is extremely remarkable. I hope these online sessions offer valuable tools, lessons, encouragement and an enjoyable break as we look forward to completing the school year and enjoying a relaxing summer ahead,” said Education Minister Adriana LaGrange in a statement.