There are a great deal of possible stressors that we could experience during this pandemic. In the beginning I was concerned less with getting sick, then with how people would react. Would there be hoarding, or would we witness the extreme reactions as in the US, that you see endlessly broadcast on social media? People here have little experience with outbreaks like this but luckily Islanders took it in stride and didn’t see it as some kind of infringement on their rights. Islanders are a hardier bunch.

There is financial worry, as it’s hard to make a living when everything is shut down. And this is made all the more difficult when you can’t leave for places where employment is still possible.

There is the concern that your neighbours, family, friends or colleagues might become sick. Or worse.

And of course there is the very real stress of being inside with family 24/7. We love each other, but conflict is bound to arise when in close contact with people for extended periods of time. This is intensified when you have little space, like we have.

None of these emotions seem to compare to the stress caused by the simple fact that our kids aren’t in school. There has been at extraordinary amount of attention given to not wanting to add stress to children’s lives by giving them learning tasks, but none to the simple fact that the act of learning, of doing work, is in itself a way to keep kids thinking about a better future. Not to mention keeping kids engaged on things more valuable then days filled with Xbox or extreme boredom.

Each letter from the school board is filled with indefinite language, nary a “will’, but instead many “maybes” and at best a “can.”

My son misses the structure, and though I know he won’t admit it, he misses learning the topics that were covered in school. Right now, it’s all review, and no marks are given. Everything is positive, that is, if he receives any kind of interaction with the teacher at all. He sees through this, and feels he is wasting his time. Which in a way he might be, since the math and science topics he is covering in grade 8, he covered in elementary school. This isn’t a comment on his teachers, who I have come to have an incredible amount of respect for.

This is a crucial year for our daughter and unfortunately all her critical classes were lumped together in one semester, this semester. Her marks for the year have apparently largely been decided, though they do send her new material to learn on her own. If she doesn’t hand in assignments it is marked as “not handed in with justification” with no effect on her final score. Thinking like a normal teenager, why would I pay more than a cursory attention to the work? She does, and we constantly reminder her to do so. She has had one test in one of her classes before the closures of school. She did very poorly. The assignments she completes can help her final grade, maybe.

Going safely back to school requires a cultural shift. Masks are most effective when everyone wears them, constant hand washing, social distancing, multiple temperature check points, procedures for when 1 child gets sick, and so on. It’s hard. But what choice do we have? The infrastructure on the Island doesn’t exist for distance learning, even in the city, bandwidth is constrained on consumer Internet. And the teachers don’t become experts in distance education over night.

A semester off isn’t the end of the world but if this continues I have many concerns about how children and families will cope.