Thursday marks the return of school for over 77,500 students across the Montreal metropolitan area.
It’s the first time students go back to school since the pandemic shut down classrooms in March.
According to the Centre de services scolaire de Montréal (CSSDM), a total of 77,518 pre-school, elementary, high school, and vocational students returned to classes spread out among 189 schools in the city.
At the beginning of August, the government-mandated face coverings for all students above grade 5 throughout the province. Face masks must be worn in common areas and school buses but aren’t required inside classrooms.
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Physical distancing guidelines must be followed in all common spaces throughout schools but are also not required within classrooms, as sort of a bubble.
Parents and health care professionals have criticized Quebec’s back-to-school plan, saying it puts children and teachers at risk of contracting COVID-19. An open letter signed by 130 Quebec doctors says the province’s education plan is “inadequate” and could undo the citizen’s collective efforts to limit the spread of the virus.
Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge has stood by the province’s back-to-school plan, saying it’s important for children and teenagers to socialize and learn at school as opposed to virtual classes.
Quebec’s Health Minister Christian Dubé says the province has done “all the right things” in allowing students to return to school.
Je suis à l’école des Moissons, ce matin, afin d’accueillir les élèves et le personnel en cette rentrée scolaire, avec le ministre de la Santé Christian Dubé et Lise Lavallée. Il y a de la fébrilité dans l’air! Bonne rentrée à tous! 😀 #Assnat #CAQ pic.twitter.com/Kv7q4SRxWr
— Jean-F. Roberge (@jfrobergeQc) August 27, 2020
At the beginning of August, Roberge said Quebec has had “very few cases” in its education facilities and said “most cases” were not caught inside schools. In June, he stressed the province’s back-to-school plan is mandatory for all Quebec students age six to 16 unless there is a “very specific medical condition.”
The Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) said preliminary data shows that roughly 150 teachers have requested medical exemptions instead of returning to work.