• Trevor Greenway

Help keep schools open, kids healthy

The more time that young students spend online learning, the more symptoms of depression and anxiety they experience.


That’s according to a recent report from SickKids Hospital in Toronto that suggests more than 70 per cent of adolescents experienced “clinically significant depressive symptoms” during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, from February to March 2021. Scary.


Surely with the most recent lockdown that kept kids out of schools from the end of December through to Jan. 17, those stats are likely only getting worse. It’s no wonder that the Western Quebec School Board (WQSB) has started recruiting stay-at-home parents, retirees and young professionals to help out in the schools. Because it’s absolutely key to our children’s mental health to keep the schools open.


There’s a lot at stake. Schools are economic drivers, and when schools close, we’re all affected. Those who have elementary-aged children are then forced to work from home, if they can, or take days, weeks and even months off of work.

But the ones who are really affected are the kids.


When we are all stuck at home, screen time for everyone naturally goes up. We’ve all been there at some point. When the important Zoom meeting happens at 4 p.m., but the kids are hungry, bored and it’s -27 C outside, naturally, Netflix, video games and Disney+ take over.


But the repercussions of this are too concerning to ignore. According to SickKids, across all 1,494 participants polled, increased time spent watching TV, on digital media and video games was associated with more “irritability, hyperactivity, inattention, depression and anxiety.” Parents often associate closed schools with negative impacts on students’ grades or on the transition to junior high or high school.


But kids are missing out on way more than just algebra.


Before the pandemic, 58 per cent of students participated in school sports or other extra-curricular activities known to boost physical and mental health. During the pandemic though, only 27 per cent of students participated. What’s more is that schools are also safe and healthy spaces for some students and the loss of healthy eating and other social programs resulted in “worse mental health outcomes for children and youth.”


So how do we keep these schools consistently open during a pandemic? That’s where you come in. If you’re a stay-at-home parent with school-aged children, a recent retiree or someone who needs a job, why not step up and help out where you’re needed? The WQSB is calling on all retirees, parents and others to help out with teaching, admin work, and everything you can think of that makes a school chug. And they’ll pay you too. But the board isn’t hiring just anyone. The WQSB’s normal vetting process still applies and all candidates will require thorough review and security checks before being hired.


This is an opportunity for the community to come together and help out where help is really needed. With Teacher Appreciation Week coming up Jan. 31 to Feb. 4, perhaps the best way to tell a teacher you appreciate all they have done over the past two years is to walk a kilometre in their shoes.


The bottom line is that kids need school. They need to see their friends. They need sports and extracurricular clubs. They need recess where they can tell jokes and talk about boys and girls, where they share their hopes, their dreams and their fears as they grow up in this unstable world.


Apply for a position today at wqsb.ca.