A boy hugs his father as he waits to be called to enter the schoolyard the Marie-Derome School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. on Monday, May 11, 2020. Thousands of Quebec schoolchildren are heading back to class today, putting the provincial government’s controversial back-to-school plan to the test. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Many students in Quebec head back to school today amid COVID-19 worries

Masks required for Grade 5 and up

MONTREAL — Thousands of Quebec schoolchildren are heading back to class today, putting the provincial government’s controversial back-to-school plan to the test.

As Montreal’s French-language schools open their doors, kids can expect fewer hugs but lots of hand-washing, some mask-wearing and schoolyards sectioned off with tape to prevent extra mingling.

Each roomful of kids will be kept in a separate bubble and masks will be required in hallways and in common areas for children in Grade 5 and up.

The government has faced criticism from groups who say the plan doesn’t go far enough and doesn’t include a distance-learning option for parents who prefer to keep their children home.

More than 150 doctors and scientists also published an open letter this week urging Francois Legault’s government to require social distancing within classrooms, mask-wearing for all students, and to oblige schools to screen children for symptoms of COVID-19.

Legault’s government has said the plan was developed with health and education experts, who agree that attending school is the best thing for children’s well-being.

Health Minister Christian Dube and Legault have noted that keeping children isolated at home can have negative consequences on their schooling and mental health, and have pointed out that elementary schools outside the Montreal area reopened in May, with voluntary attendance and without a spike in COVID-19 cases.

But the plan has not calmed the fears of anxious parents and teachers, who have repeatedly called for measures such as mandatory mask-wearing, remote learning options, smaller class sizes or classes taught outside.

Teachers’ unions have also raised concerns that the pandemic will exacerbate an existing teacher shortage at a time when more resources are needed to deal with the pandemic.

A spokesman for one union said many teachers have retired early or have been exempted due to medical conditions, leaving Montreal’s largest school district missing hundreds of staff members as the year starts up.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 27, 2020.

The Canadian Press

CoronavirusQuebecSchools

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Flight training academy critical of Red Deer Airport agreement

Sky Wings Aviation Academy said its fuel business hampered by exclusive agreement

Water main installation to close portion of 55 Street in Red Deer

A portion of 55 Street will close starting Thursday to December 24… Continue reading

COVID-19 cases in Alberta up by 153 Wednesday

Central zone sits at 19 active cases

In photos: Gord Bamford raises more than $21K at Lacombe concert

Central Alberta’s Gord Bamford performed at the Lacombe Regional Airport on Saturday.… Continue reading

Lakers, LeBron roll in Game 1 of finals, top Heat 116-98

Lakers, LeBron roll in Game 1 of finals, top Heat 116-98

Premier League asking for changes to football’s handball law

Premier League asking for changes to football’s handball law

QMJHL players to be handed 15-minute penalties for fighting

QMJHL players to be handed 15-minute penalties for fighting

Lightning celebrate Stanley Cup title with boat parade

Lightning celebrate Stanley Cup title with boat parade

James, Herro see popularity rise in the NBA playoffs

James, Herro see popularity rise in the NBA playoffs

Canadian Eugenie Bouchard books spot in third round at French Open

Canadian Eugenie Bouchard books spot in third round at French Open

Tampa Bay Rays beat Toronto Blue Jays in Game 2 to sweep wild-card series

Tampa Bay Rays beat Toronto Blue Jays in Game 2 to sweep wild-card series

Canadian rower Silken Laumann drawn to paratriathlete’s story, backs her with cash

Canadian rower Silken Laumann drawn to paratriathlete’s story, backs her with cash

Most Read