SCHOOL CLOSURES: Some Ottawa parents have no choice but to bring their kids to work
Ottawa physiotherapist Mary Bishai attends to her patients with her two young children closed into rooms at her clinic all day with their laptops, attending virtual school.
“It’s torture,” she says, especially for four-year-old son Nicholas, who jumps on his chair like a jellybean, loses focus by afternoon and is absorbing very little of his kindergarten lessons.
Bishai checks in when she can, bribing Nicholas with toys, treats, and promises of YouTube videos. She feels guilty that Nicholas and his eight-year-old sister, Chantal, remain inside those rooms all day for pandemic safety, allowed to leave only to go to the washroom. She feels guilty that she can’t help them more with their virtual lessons, and she’s exhausted as she tries to juggle everything.
With schools in Ottawa closed, Bishai says she has no choice but to take her children to work with her. She counts herself lucky that her company is compassionate and there are rooms available at the clinic.
Bishai says she’s proud that her patients continue to receive the same high level of care.
She doesn’t understand why daycares are allowed to open, but not schools, although both have pandemic safety protocols.
Nicholas wakes up every morning and asks if he’s going to school, she says. “And I’m like ‘No, Nicholas, you’re coming with me to the clinic.’ And he says, ‘I don’t want to do that!’ I want to go to school!’
“I’m like, ‘Well, the public schools are closed, I’m sorry, honey.’ It’s very hard.”
Bishai and her husband, who also works full-time and transports their one-year-old son to daycare every day, have no family nearby to help. “I have a sister in Alberta, but that’s a very long distance to send your kids to be taken care of!” Bishai says with a laugh.
Neither of them can afford to quit their jobs, she says. “We have a mortgage, cars, the daycare.”
Bishai is among thousands of parents in Ottawa and across Ontario who are scrambling to care for their children during school closures.
Most of the students in the province will continue learning remotely at home on the advice of Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, the province announced Wednesday.
Only schools in northern Ontario and seven predominately rural areas in the south have been granted permission to resume in-person classes.
The province has given no indication of when schools in Ottawa and other areas will be allowed to reopen.
However, Ottawa’s French Catholic school board said on its website that in-person classes wouldn’t resume until at least Feb. 10.