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Quebec announces stricter measures for schools in red zones – will it be enough?

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At a press conference today, Quebec’s Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge announced new, stricter measures for schools located in the Red Alert Level-4 zones. While acknowledging the increasing number of schools reporting cases of the Covid-19 virus (at least 2,141 cases across 785 schools as of Friday October 2nd) their approach remains reactive rather than proactive. The measures that will take effect as of Thursday October 8th until October 28th, are aimed at ‘keeping and guaranteeing the safety of students and staff’ Roberge said and that schools will not be closed at this time, but they will monitor the situation.

However, High school students in grades 10 and 11 will be following a ‘hybrid’ model for their classes – one day out of two they will be at school and the other day they will participate in remote online learning. It will decrease the number of students in schools, hallways, entrances and on buses by 20% he said – and it should make a difference. “It’s important to implement these new measures because we want to do everything in our power to keep schools open. We think the best place for students is at school,” Roberge added and that there was ‘no plan to move to full-time online schooling’.

stricter measures for schools and facemasks in high schools will now be mandatory for students everywhere

Facemasks in high schools will now be mandatory for students in classrooms and ‘everywhere… as soon as you step on the on the (school) land’, he said. Teachers must wear masks in common areas and the lounge, but they will not be required to wear masks in the classrooms, as long as they keep a distance of two metres from the students. The government also wants the police to ‘build a presence’ around high schools to ‘inform and remind’ the students of the new measures and to ‘intervene’ when necessary.

As for Elementary schools, not much has changed. Students in Grade 5 and 6 are still required to wear masks at school in common areas and on buses, but not in classes. When then asked why Ontario finds it important enough to make masks mandatory in classes, Roberge replied that the virus is ‘much more limited in elementary schools than in secondary schools’ but he was unclear about where his sources of information came from.

Danielle McCann, Quebec’s Higher Education Minister said that, “In-person classes at CEGEPs and universities should be limited as much as possible, libraries will be limited to book lending only, and social gatherings are prohibited. Research activities in labs can continue but any work that can be done remotely should – and that higher education establishments in the red zone must apply their planned emergency protocols as of October 8th, adding that ‘anything that can be done remotely should be done remotely’.

Extra-curricular activities have been suspended, including team sports, until October 28th. ‘For three weeks, we will focus on individual training within your household, or you can have a partner for training as long as you stay two metres apart’ was the recommendation. Gyms will be also closing for that period. An announcement concerning financial compensation for the gym owners is expected to be made in the next few days. This story will be updated with further details as they are made available.

By: Bonnie Wurst – info@mtltimes.ca

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