My experience with school was very different from Grade 5 to Grade 6.
My Grade 5 year was the same as everyone else’s, but in Grade 6 when we went back to in-person school, I was fortunate to be accepted into the iGen program. The iGen program is a program where for all of your Grade 6 year you are in a care home with Elders. We all came from different schools across the city. We were all so nervous on our first day, but I think that’s why our class was so close. We had to do a lot of scary things together, from public speaking to supporting each other through the ups and downs of COVID. I think we all needed a fresh start; lockdown really deteriorated our mental health, and we are all made to be social so even the most introverted kids were thankful to be back.
The hardest part was feeling like there was nothing you could do to help; the case numbers kept on rising and all we were trying to do was get the Elders back to their lives. One of the main things we wanted to do was actually get to go into the care home. We would always say, “Wait until December” but we never got to go in the care home until May. Accessibility was something I’d never really thought about until I came to iGen; there were so many places we wanted to go with the Elders but, regardless of COVID, we couldn’t because there were no elevators. There were so many things I remember near the end of the school year, like some of the Elders getting to go outside for the first time in a year.
The hardest part was the passing of some Elders. The care home was in such a tight lockdown that some Elders didn’t know who had passed away until months after they were gone.
We weren’t allowed in the care home at the time. In fact, no one was, not even family. On our first Zoom call with the Elders, we could tell the toll COVID took on them and the people who worked there. The staff at the care home were the nicest people I have ever met to this day. Their dedication to keeping the Elders feeling happy, needed and important even when they were completely alone is unreal. The whole staff worked so hard to keep everyone healthy and COVID free; they are the reason everyone was so happy all the time. Our teachers were incredible too; keeping a bunch of 6th Graders under control is a talent. Being around a lot of people was a good way to heal after all everything happens for a reason.