Throughout the summer, parents, teachers, unions, and students have criticized the government for a lack of clarity and information regarding elementary and secondary student’s return to school.
On Monday, Quebec’s Education Minister, Jean-François Roberge, updated the province on Quebec’s guidelines, three weeks before students are expected to head back to class.
Before Roberge’s update, Quebec’s Health Minister, Christian Dubé, said the plan has been “adjusted” since the cases in the province are “evolving constantly.”
“We are presenting an updated plan as we get closer to back to school. The plan was developed with public health on the basis of their recommendations,” says Dubé.
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Roberge says it’s a priority that Quebec “succeeds with going back to school.” He says “our children and our health is what must be protected at all costs. At the time, closing schools is not protecting our children and teenagers.”
The Education Minister says the first new guideline “won’t surprise anyone,” and that after discussions with public health, face masks will be mandatory for all students in the province from Grade 5 to the end of high school. Students from all trade schools, CEGEPs, and universities will be required to wear masks, as will all adults who are faculty at any school in the province.
“Masks will have to be worn in all common areas but not in classrooms,” said Roberge in French. “We want to preserve the facility to communicate. Face-to-face contact and expressions are important. Our professionals have stated their preference to not have masks worn in classrooms.”
(1/8) Comme prévu, tous les élèves du Québec pourront revenir en classe cet automne. De strictes mesures sanitaires, comme le lavage régulier des mains et la désinfection régulière des locaux, demeurent en place. #Assnat #CAQ
— Jean-F. Roberge (@jfrobergeQc) August 10, 2020
Roberge says if students are comfortable wearing masks in classrooms, they can “for sure wear them,” but it won’t be mandated.
Pre-school students and those before grade 5 will not be required to wear masks but physical distancing and frequent hand washing will still be required.
Parents or visitors coming into the school must wear mask until they are seated — like every other indoor venue in Quebec.
Roberge says the second guidelines is the “question of groups within classes.” He says public health no longer recommends separating classes into what he called “bubbles” or “ sub-groups” within classrooms, as was stated in their initial June announcement.
“Classes can travel and stay together, there are no social distancing measures recommended within a classroom, they’re like a family,” he added.
Roberge says public health urges schools to continue having access to and from many different doors, frequent hand washing, and adjusting schedules so everyone doesn’t leave, enter, and have recess together at the same time.
Specifically to parents, Roberge says that while folks are “confident” their students will go back into their routines, he says parents with apprehension can work from home with a valid doctor’s note. He says a school service centre will be available online “in the coming days.”
In the case that a positive test occurs at a school, parents will be advised — as the government wants to “be transparent” with everyone.
“You will be informed regardless if it’s in the school or the classroom,” says Roberge. “I think it’s important to broadcast the information so people don’t think we’re hiding anything. We have enough measures put in place to trust the network.”
Roberge says Quebec has had “very few cases” in its education facilities throughout the province and said “most cases” were not caught inside schools.