On Monday, Quebec becomes the first province in Canada to reopen schools following the shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Elementary schools across the province, with the exception of schools within the Montreal metropolitan area and Laval, are reopening to strict guidelines.
Class sizes are restricted to 15 students each, constant physical distancing and frequent hand washing will be enforced, and days will be in large part, spent by children at their desks.
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Libraries, gymnasiums, and cafeterias will be closed and attendance remains optional.
Quebec has taken backlash from the rest of the country for its decision to open schools, especially considering the province is Canada’s leading region for known coronavirus cases and deaths.
Premier François Legault has defended the Quebec government’s decision, citing that people younger than 60 years of age are at a “limited” risk of contracting the virus.
On April 28, Legault said non-primary students won’t be returning, citing that it’s easier to follow remote and virtual classes for students past elementary. He 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 throughout the city.
The Premier said his first reason for reopening schools is 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 it’s good for students 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.”
Legault said if the government waited until September for primary students, “it probably wouldn’t be any different than it is now.” He concluded his April 28 meeting by saying, “life has to continue.”
On Monday, Quebec’s Minister of Education, Jean-François Roberge, said the reopening is a “special day” and told returning students to “pay attention and follow the guidelines. Every day we go to school is a good day.” To parents who opted for their children to not return to school, Roberge said officials will give them ample “resources and help” to continue learning from home.
Aujourd’hui, c’est le grand jour pour plusieurs! 📚🍎 Je tiens à souhaiter une bonne rentrée à tous, dans le respect des consignes. Merci aux membres du personnel scolaire et aux équipes des centres de services pour votre travail incroyable! #Assnat pic.twitter.com/eJBZKScUps
— Jean-F. Roberge (@jfrobergeQc) May 11, 2020