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School is supposed to be a safe place. However, returning to school during a pandemic has been nothing short of a nerve-racking experience for many. 2019 started with a series of public-school strikes, and then in early 2020 COVID-19 hit and school was shut down. With a one-year gap in education for many students, the thought of a second interrupted school year was not an option.

Students and teachers barely had a relaxed summer confined to their homes. For those that had the privilege of yard space or entertainment, the quarantine period was a time to reconnect with family, clean up the house, and take up hobbies. For many, confinement in close quarters, compounded by limited social engagement with others and stressful family lives, created friction and challenging home environments. For parents, planning and preparing, the unknown was highly stressful. Balancing both home and work life became a recipe for a mental wellness hazard.

This September, prioritizing between physical health or mental wellness was not an easy choice to make. For online learners, kids lost out on much needed social engagement that in-person schooling provides. For in-person schooling, parents sacrificed the risk of health of family and extended family. Decision making has been fiercely stressful in a time of uncertainty.

As a leading IB private school in Vaughan, we were required to plan similar to our public-school counterparts for a safe return to school. Thankfully, we were able to have the flexibility for tightening procedures and standards that addressed many of the concern’s parents, teachers and students had about returning. For some families that can afford private school tuition, it has afforded them peace of mind and uninterrupted learning.

What does peace of mind look like at Delano Academy? Well, it starts with having a voice. Parent volunteers contributing to the return to school safety plans and engaging with staff. Reduced class ratios to 14 students, daily health assessment and screening, daily temperature checks and strict illness policies.

Mandatory mask-wearing for all, and primary students wearing a mask or face shield. Faculty support and supervise mask changing periods. Increased hand hygiene with hand-washing instruction, increased recess and wellness education. Outdoor classrooms and converted outdoor learning to help keep kids in fresh air space. Increased and improved air ventilation indoors, new HEPA-13 filters and systems in each classroom and significant attention to sanitation and disinfecting with full-day custodian care. Each student is stocked with masks, clear

at their desks, 1:1 laptop devices, resources and materials to prevent sharing.

Waiting for COVID-19 tests or dealing with mild illness at home can set back a child’s education as they wait for results. At Delano, students are armed with full access of sophisticated learning applications that transition their classrooms remotely and synchronously seamlessly. As a tech-rich school, our students are well equipped and stocked with what they need to be successful.

Fed up with losing a second school year, many parents are moving to private schools. Comparable to childcare costs, private schooling is more affordable and accessible that once considered. With two locations in Thornhill, and a new location now opening in Maple, Delano Academy is a leader in private education. Parents and staff are ecstatic with our safety plans, and with the current cases of COVID-19 rising daily, our school feels safe knowing we are setting high standards to keep COVID out.

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