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P.E.I. grandmother keeps snowball in her freezer for more than a decade





It’s not often people want to hang onto winter, but a Summerside, P.E.I., woman has kept a piece of it in her freezer for over a decade: a snowball in a Ziploc bag.

The snowball isn’t just any old ball of ice, however, it was a gift from her granddaughter 11 years ago.

“It’s very special,” says Mae Arsenault.

“Knowing that they think about you enough to bring you something, it doesn’t matter what it is, but a snowball is great for me.”

Kept carefully for years

Her granddaughter, Alecia Arsenault, is 16 years old now and had forgotten about the gift until recently when the pair stumbled upon an old photo of five-year-old Alecia presenting it to her.

At that point, vague memories of making a snowball weeks ahead of her grandmother’s birthday, and keeping it for her until the end of May, started to come back to her.

“I’m not sure what was going on in my five-year-old mind that I decided that a snowball would be a perfect gift,” Alecia said.

When she was five years old, Alecia Arsenault gave her grandmother a snowball as a gift. (Submitted by Mae Arsenault)

She couldn’t believe it when her grandmother said the very same snowball was still in the freezer.

“I was like ‘Are you kidding me?’ So we got up to the freezer and went to go look for it and sure enough it was there,” she said.

“I was like ‘Oh my goodness,’ 11 years that’s been there.”

‘I know she’s thinking of me’

Mae Arsenault moved a couple times since Alecia first gave her the gift and no one in the family even knew she had kept it — and that she has been quietly treasuring it every time she opens her freezer door — for the past 11 years.

“I always think of it,” Mae said.

“I try to put it in the back so it won’t be crushed, but I know it’s always there.”

Mae Arsenault has kept the snowball carefully stored in a ziplock bag in her freezer for 11 years. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

Alecia jokes that she isn’t sure she’d have held onto the gift.

“If it were me and some child gave me a snowball I’d probably just throw it back outside when the kid left,” she laughed. “I just never thought that would be something that she would keep.” 

“It makes me really happy because I know that she’s thinking of me and has that there, it’s like a part of me is here with her all the time. It’s really adorable, I love it so much.”

Mae Arsenault says keeping the snowball is a way to remember her granddaughter’s childhood years. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

For Mae, it’s not just about remembering the gift.

The snowball is a symbol of her growing granddaughter’s childhood years.

And she says as long as she’s living the snowball will be in her freezer.

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Ottawa families give mixed reviews for online schooling





So, how’s it going with online school? Families reached by CBC Ottawa seem to have mixed reviews. 

Masuma Khan is a mother of two. Her seven-year-old, Hana Wyndham in Grade 2, is attending French immersion virtual school. Masuma is grateful it’s an option, but can’t help notice a lot of down time.

“There’s a lot of, ‘are you on mute?’ In terms of the amount of learning that’s actually happening, it does seem to be not that high,” said Masuma.

Parents who kept their children at home this fall are in the minority, but they still form a significant chunk of families in Ottawa.

In the city’s largest school board, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), about 27 per cent of elementary students and 22 per cent of high school students chose online learning. The Ottawa Catholic School Board says roughly a quarter of its students are online.

For Masuma, the decision to keep her daughter home was complex: extended family members are immunocompromised and she worried the in-person learning environment would be unpleasant because of precautions. She also felt her daughter might benefit from being supported at home.

“She doesn’t necessarily enjoy school. I also found out during the pandemic that she was being bullied [last year],” said Masuma. “So I thought, why not try from home?”

To help her daughter socialize face-to-face with other kids, Masuma enrolled Hana in Baxter Forest School, an alternative education program where kids spend most of their time outside, one day a week. Hana also attends virtual Arabic classes two days a week after school. 

Masuma’s husband and Hana share the living room work space, and Masuma admits he does the lion’s share of helping their daughter stay on task. There is a possibility that he’ll be required to return to his office in the new year.

“When he goes back to work … it’s probably going to be a little bit more difficult.”

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No school closures after Christmas holiday break, says Ontario education minister





Ontario elementary and secondary schools will not close for an extended winter break, says Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Closures aren’t needed given Ontario’s “strong safety protocols, low levels of (COVID-19) transmission and safety within our schools,” Lecce announced Wednesday afternoon. He said he had consulted with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and the province’s public health measures advisory table.

That ended speculation about school buildings remaining closed in January for a period of time after the Christmas break.

Earlier in the week, Lecce told reporters the government was considering having students spend “some period out of class” in January, perhaps switching to online learning.

In a statement, Lecce said that even though rates of community transmission of COVID-19 are increasing, “schools have been remarkably successful at minimizing outbreaks to ensure that our kids stay safe and learning in their classrooms.”

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Windy start to the week in Ottawa





OTTAWA — It’s a blustery Monday in the capital with wind gusts of up to 50 km/hour expected throughout the day.

Environment Canada is forecasting a high of 4 C with a 60 per cent chance of showers or flurries before the wind dies down later this evening.

There’s a chance of flurries on Tuesday as well with a high of -1 C. The overnight low will dip to an unseasonal -9 C.  

Wednesday’s high will be just -5 C with lots of sunshine.

Seasonal temperatures return for the rest of the week..

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