As part of his daily briefings, Premier François Legault announced that primary schools throughout the province, excluding in the Greater Montreal area and Laval, are scheduled to reopen on May 11.
Montreal and Laval primary school students are scheduled to return on May 19.
“Of course we will continue to follow the situation closely as it evolves,” said Legault in French. He said the May 19 date applies to what he labelled the Greater Montreal area and Laval, places within the 450 area code.
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Legault stressed the importance that schools throughout the province “will not be mandatory.” Parents that wish to keep their students at home will not penalized “in any way” should they choose to do so.
“We wanted to announce things a bit early to get things ready for the 11 and 19 of May. Should the situation worsen, we will readjust things. Gradually and with prudence,” said Legault.
He said the school reopening applies only to Quebec primary schools. Secondary schools, colleges, and universities will reopen in September.
Legault says it’s easier for non-primary students to follow remote and virtual classes. He also said high school, CEGEP, and university students would add more traffic to public transit and would make it more difficult to keep the two-metre distancing guidelines.
On est en voie de gagner la première bataille contre la propagation du virus dans la communauté. C’est la condition prioritaire pour commencer à relancer graduellement le Québec.
🎥Suivez notre point de presse en direct 👇https://t.co/HChUiS2cq5
— François Legault (@francoislegault) April 27, 2020
Legault listed off five reasons as to why it’s important to reopen schools in mid-May. He cites his first reason as the well-being of children. “It’s important for children, especially those with challenges, that they don’t remain six months without having gone to school.”
He said the second reason is because the risk for children, and those younger than 60 years old, is “limited.”
Legault said the third reason coincides with the stabilization of hospitals. “If there were teachers or children who become ill, we have the numbers and staff to take care of them now.”
The fourth reason is the go-ahead from public health. Legault added the decision was not made “off the top of our heads, it’s science.”
Finally, Legault said, “life has to continue.” He said it’s good for children to see their friends and teachers again. “We don’t think they’ll be a vaccine before a 12 or 18 month period and I don’t see children staying at home that long.”
He also said if the government waited until September for primary students, “it probably wouldn’t be any different than it is now.”
The decisions were made without the possibility of “heard immunity” — when large swaths of the population are immunized by catching the illness: “It would be a secondary benefit if that proves to be the case,” he said.
The premier concluded his briefing by saying officials will be “adjusting our strategy depending on the evolution of things.”
“I know that today and tomorrow some Quebecers will have questions and concerns,” he said. “It’s important to say that nothing is mandatory here, go at your own rhythm When you’re ready, and you think your children are ready, go ahead. We don’t want to rush anyone.”
On Tuesday, Legault and his team will announce when the reopening for businesses will take place, stressing that the next step will happen “gradually.”