OPINION: Why not put students in arenas?

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By Nick Seebruch
OPINION: Why not put students in arenas?
Centre ice at the Civic Complex (Nick Seebruch/ Seaway News).

During these days of the pandemic, everything seems so uncertain. We don’t know when the economy will recover, we don’t know if there will be a second wave of COVID-19, and we don’t know how safe our youngsters will be when they are back in the classroom in the fall.

The Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) stated at their board meeting this past week that they would prefer to see their students back in class on a full-time basis, with enhanced classroom cleaning and hygiene.

“It is our hope that all students will be in class for the first day of instruction on Sept. 4, however if we are told otherwise by the Ministry or local health officials that it is not safe to do so, I think the plan we have drafted has put us in a position to still address the learning and mental health needs of our students,” said UCDSB Chair of the Board of Trustees John McAllister at their meeting.

I think that the best case for the education and social development of our students will be for them to be in class, and in person.

However, this needs to be done safely. I saw many comments from parents on the story we did about the UCDSB meeting who were clearly conflicted by this conundrum between being in class and being safe.

We know that the virus cannot travel long distances, that social distancing and masks work. This means that for students to return to class safely, they will need space, more space than many tightly packed schools have on-site.

My suggestion would be that municipalities donate time and use of their arena facilities to local school boards so that students can learn in person while also being socially distanced.

I feel like arenas were almost built for this situation. Take the Cornwall Civic Complex as an example. The Complex is a 5,000-seat arena, with a brand-new four-sided box screen above the centre of the ice.

Even with a one seat space between all students, you can still have 2,500 students in the Ed Lumley arena at once. The four-sided screen in the centre will allow all students to view the lesson. Teachers can be in the stands with students to answer questions and enforce discipline.

Also, it isn’t like the Ed Lumley arena won’t be available. I am a fan of hockey as much as the next guy, but if there is a second wave in the fall, it might not be feasibly to have close contact sports anyway. Whether or not school boards like this idea, this extraordinary situation calls for extraordinary measures.

There are four school boards in the Cornwall and surrounding area and at the very least, these different school boards must work closely together for the sake of the safety and education of all of the students in our region.

The Cornwall Civic Complex can hold more students than anyone school in our region let alone any one grade, even at half capacity. These arenas could be an asset to school boards, and can be used to ensure social distancing, and so can their own gyms and cafeterias, but our regions school boards must work together.

What do you think readers? How would you keep our students safe come the fall? Email me a Letter to the Editor at nseebruch@seawaynews.media

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