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Opinion: Empathy for the workers at Squamish schools

Teachers, education assistants, principals, custodians, counsellors, and before and after school child care workers bear the brunt of it all — educating children and youth on something utterly unimaginable just a few years ago.
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A cool and rainy June turned to a hot and sweaty August sooner than we thought. Now the calendar has flipped once more and our children and youth are braving another abnormal school year.

Try as everyone might, schooling won’t ever be the same. The COVID-19 pandemic has altered this reality forever. Two years filled with gloves, masking, sanitizing, social distancing, double masking and vaccine rollouts have rendered the “normal” way but a distant memory.

Teachers, education assistants, principals, custodians, counsellors, and before and after school child care workers bear the brunt of it all — educating children and youth on something utterly unimaginable just a few years ago.

Now, they step in once again with the virus’ future during this school year just as unclear as it has ever been in past years, yet they put on a resilient and brave face to keep the kids at ease.

The most outwardly critical people will say that the government is putting the kids and workers at risk of contracting COVID-19 again and again while we are still learning very much about it. Other critics will denounce the severity of the virus.

Yet this debate is pointless as the provincial government has already made the choice to move forward with optional protections. Though they aren’t above making changes — there hasn’t been a sniff of re-instituting any sort of restrictions in recent announcements. We will learn what will come from this choice in the coming year.

The focus should now be on all those who are heading into the unknown and supporting them through the impossible choice of career or health, joy or dismay. The most at-risk population among these kids and workers weren’t given a choice, even if health should take precedence over in-person learning or a paycheque.

For many, it isn’t that simple.

My concern, compassion and empathy are with all these people. It is with all the people who bear unseen scars and misfortune. It is with the people who have day-to-day struggles. It is with the people who, ultimately, are just making their best choices despite being in an impossible situation.

As the school year gets underway, the focus should be on the impossible situation all these people have to endure, kids included. The focus should not be on the rules or regulations or the lack thereof that they have to unwittingly explain or enforce or ignore.  

All these people are at a fork in the road, trying to choose the least prickly path to get to the next one.