#teensexting | #sexting | Leona O’Neill: I’m very nervous about prospect of sending my children back to school

LAST week we enrolled our son in his post-primary school. The child hasn’t been at school since mid-March. He hasn’t been in a classroom for three months, hasn’t seen his friends in person and his home-schooling has been challenging, as it has been for many kids trying to navigate these surreal times.

As we walked up to the school to sign him up, I thought about how utterly daunting this whole process must be for him and children of his age. Their precious and important last year in primary school, where they are given time and space to prepare for the next step in their education and say goodbye to their friends, has been taken from them. Come September they will be thrust into a whole new world with hundreds of strangers, after spending months under restrictions in limited social bubbles, with the threat of a virus still hanging over them.

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As we stood in the cavernous sports hall waiting our turn to be called forward, I wondered how on Earth schools will be able to open their doors to over 1,000 kids in some instances, in September.

Teachers had spaced themselves out around the sports hall to welcome the new pupils. Every teacher stood behind a glass shield, there was a hand sanitizer we were encouraged to use, everyone kept their social distance. I wondered how on Earth the school was going to successfully manage vast amounts of children in the aftermath of a global pandemic and keep everyone – staff and pupils – safe.

I am very nervous about the prospect of sending my kids back to school in September. I am genuinely hoping that by the time that rolls around the virus that has wreaked havoc across the world and taken so many lives will have burned itself out completely so that it is no longer a danger, or that there will at least be effective therapeutic medication to deal with it.

I imagine our kids will be looking at a mixture of home and school learning for the foreseeable future
I’m afraid I do not trust the British government to lead our way. They have got it wrong so many times during this crisis and my confidence in them is at an all-time low.

They told us we didn’t need to lock down yet, and almost 43,000 people lost their lives. They told us that kids weren’t affected at all by Coronavirus, yet some children across the world have died from it and also Kawasaki disease linked to the virus. They told us to lock down and they themselves broke the rules. The truth is they didn’t seem to know what they were doing while we were all looking desperately for leadership and guidance in the darkness of this pandemic.

I’m glad that Arlene and Michelle are taking their own path on this issue and I have much more confidence in them to do what is best for the people of Northern Ireland.

Still, this is a new virus and none of us yet know of its trajectory and whether a second wave will hit us in the winter. Therefore I’ll be taking a wait-and-see approach to schools opening in September and if my kids will be going back.

I imagine the future will look a lot different to the normal we had been used to and our kids will be looking at a mixture of home and school learning for the foreseeable future. It’s not ideal for anyone but we must be guided by science and health experts and tread very carefully. We’ve come so far and done so well, but we’re nowhere near the end of this crisis.

In the meantime, as we wait to see what school will look like for our children after the summer, we all must look after one another and make sure we don’t undo all the good work and sacrifices that have been made.

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