Back to School and Delta Variant: What If Spouses Disagree on what is Best for the Kids?
It is that time of year again when parents and kids are getting ready to go back to school. As of today, Ontario schools are planning to have students return to in-person teaching. However, as parents and kids prepare to head back into the classroom, Delta variant cases of COVID-19 here in Ontario are beginning to rise.
Back to School Guidelines
The Ontario government has advised that masks will be mandated for all students grade one and up when they are indoors, and classroom sizes remain the same. Yet, parents still have the option to choose remote learning instead of in-person schooling if they wish.
As of right now, there is no mandate forcing teachers or students to be vaccinated before returning to the classroom. However, many universities in Ontario have stated that they will require staff and students to be vaccinated or take a rapid test every two-weeks if they wish to attend campus.
With the rising cases in Ontario due to the new Delta variant, in addition to the possibility of a fourth lockdown in the Fall, separated parents will be faced with the difficult decision as to whether their kids should return to in-person school or to stay remote.
What the Courts Say
Over the past year, our firm has seen many instances where separated parents disagree as to if their child(ren) should attend class in-person or remote. Many of these cases have been heard before the Courts and for the most part the Courts have stated that the child should return to in-person teaching as their mental health could deteriorate with the decrease in socialization that a classroom setting offers.
The question going forward will be if the Courts maintain this position of favouring in-person teaching in light of the new Delta variant and its ability to spread faster.
We still do not know that much about the Delta variant but based on the rise of cases we have seen in India and the United Kingdom, it appears as if the rise in cases lasts about two months before levelling off again. This would put Ontario seeing a peak in delta cases around mid-September and a levelling off in late October.
We do know that the Delta variant is more transmissible then previous strains of the virus, however the data on the Delta variant is unclear as to if its effects on children are more severe. If the Delta variant turns out to have worse symptoms on children then Ontario schools may purse either: 1) entering another lockdown to stop the spread, or 2) mandate vaccination.
It appears that it is likely that schools will remain open for the 2021-22 school year and not return to another lockdown in light of the Delta variant. This is based on the short-term spike in cases in addition to the large portion of the population that is currently vaccinated and more protected from the Delta variant.
Many institutions across Canada and the United States have begun mandating people get vaccinated. In Canada, universities such as the University of Ottawa, University of Toronto, and Western have required staff and students to be vaccinated before returning to class. Quebec is also in the process of developing a vaccine passport that individuals will have to show to enter certain places of business.
As of right now, there is no requirement that teachers or students at the elementary level receive the vaccine to return to school. We do suspect that this will become an area of contention among separated parents as the issue enters the public conversation in the coming months.
The Lambda Variant
A major unknown at this point is the Lambda variant that presently spreading across South America. Little is currently known about the Lambda variant but initial studies show that it is less transmissible then Delta, but it is more resistant to vaccines.
There have been a few cases of Lambda in North America in the past few months leading us to believe that it does not spread as quickly as Delta, however, if it becomes the dominant variant and vaccines do little to prevent its symptoms, then Ontario may be forced to enter another lockdown.
Tips for Separated Parents Navigating Back to School
It is important for separated parents to provide stability and guidance for the children during this uncertain time. It is encouraged that they try to follow the Rules for Separated Parents.
If you are going through a separation or other family law related issues, to ensure you understand all of your options and rights, you do not need to wait and you can get started online with us today or get in touch with us.