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Furniture and files are shown at a school in Brampton, Ont., on July 23, 2020. As most provinces plan for students to return to school full-time in September, many parents are grappling with whether to send their children into classrooms.

Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Seana Mills and her 11-year-old son, Liam, used to look forward to school resuming at summer’s end. But not this year.

“I’m terrified,” says Ms. Mills, who works for a software company and lives in Langley, B.C.

Her son is equally afraid of being exposed to COVID-19 at school and passing it along to Ms. Mills, who suffers from asthma.

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She is looking for home-schooling or distance-learning options, with the risks of sending her son to school simply too high, she says.

As most provinces plan for students to return to school full-time in September, many parents are grappling with whether to send their children into classrooms. Some say they will put their children in school but pull them out if COVID-19 cases rise. Others, fearing the risks to children’s health, are exploring alternatives, including home-schooling or hiring private tutors.

“I’m so at a loss for what to do,” says Ashley Hopkins, a mother of five ages 12, 10, 3, 2 and 1. Her husband has cancer and has been told by doctors he is at extremely high risk for having a serious case of COVID-19.

Home-schooling seems like an impossible task with five kids to look after, and sending them to school means risking exposing her partner to the virus.

“Either I risk my partner’s life or fail my kids’ education,” says Ms. Hopkins, who lives in Delta, B.C.

She is researching home-schooling and distance-learning options.

Companies that offer tutoring services are already beginning to see increasing demand as parents look for alternatives to school.

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“In the last week we’ve definitely seen a pretty strong rise [in interest],” says Sunny Verma, co-founder and CEO of TutorBright, a company that provides online tutoring across Canada. “Online tutoring is becoming more requested than we’ve ever seen.”

Mr. Verma says that with many parents who won’t send their children to school, he expects this to be “the busiest tutoring year in Canada.”

Tara Nensi is planning on sending her 11-year-old son back to school, but only so long as COVID-19 cases remain stable.

“We’re going to take it day by day and see if there’s a spike in COVID cases and if need be then pull him out,” says Ms. Nensi, who lives in Markham, Ont., where she operates a science, technology, engineering and math-based learning centre.

She and her husband are both anxious about the return to school. But, she says, “We’re counting on the government that they’ve done enough research.”

Elementary-school students in Ontario will remain a single cohort five days a week, and class-size averages in Grades 4 to 8 will remain at 24.5, the provincial government announced earlier this week. Students in Grades 4 to 12 will be required to wear a non-medical mask or face covering, while younger students will be encouraged to do so.

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David Fallon is too worried about his six-year-old daughter’s mental health to keep her home in isolation.

“It’s not good for the kids to be away from their friends and out of the classroom for so long,” says Mr. Fallon, who lives in Vancouver.

Although he says he trusts Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.‘s Provincial Health Officer, enough to send his daughter back to school, he’ll pull her out if COVID-19 cases rise and look for some alternative to classroom learning.

Ms. Mills says she doesn’t know how she will be able to work full-time and home-school her son. It’s likely impossible, she says. If it can’t be done, and she cannot find a distance-learning program for Liam, she will reluctantly have to put him in school next month.

“I’ll have to send him back, and we’re just going to have to be on pins and needles all the time,” Ms. Mills says.

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Editor’s note: This article has been updated to clarify the class-sizes in Grades 4 to 8.
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