Quebec’s Education Minister Jean-François Roberge announced at a press conference on April 27th that Elementary schools and Daycare centers will progressively and ‘prudently’ reopen starting on May 11th. He reiterated several times that attendance will not be mandatory and parents who have concerns may choose not to send their children back to school. The reopenings will start on May 11th in most of the province, but only in areas considered ‘cold zones’. Whereas Montreal and areas north and south of the Island, considered ‘hot zones’ because of the higher number of cases of the Covid-19 virus, will reopen starting on May 19th. High Schools, Cegeps and Universities will remain closed until September 1st.
The Minister said they are announcing the plans two and three weeks in advance to give parents time to better prepare themselves and their children, as well as to allow the government to work out some details. Parents who choose to send their children to school, must advise schools a week in advance if they are going to attend. It especially goes for elementary school children, as the number of students per classroom will be limited to 15 students, in order to maintain the 2-metre physical distancing measures. Should there be a higher number, the government will look into other spaces such as in Cegeps and Universities that have been closed. As well, if there are not enough teachers available they will consider bringing in University and High school teachers. Teachers who are 60 years or older will not be back going back for now and parents with health risks are advised not to send their children back to school. The edict goes for teachers as well.
Daycare center workers will have to wear masks, as it will be extremely difficult to maintain the distancing measures – but it will not be mandatory for elementary school teachers (although that can change). Parents who decide not to send their children to daycares will not lose their spots, nor will they have to pay for days when children do not attend. Sanitary protocols will be strictly followed in the schools, such as washing hands with soap and water frequently, for both students and teachers – and the school rooms and other common areas will be cleaned and sanitized frequently. The Government will be using the time before the schools are open to look into other issues that have not yet been full addressed, such as the use of schoolyards, and they will be ‘readjusting things as it progresses’.
Earlier in the day Premier Francois Legault said, concerning physical distancing, “It will be even tougher with school-age children, but the government has decided the riskier option, in terms of their development or for students with learning difficulties – is to keep kids cooped up without their teachers until the fall… the watchword here is prudence.” He maintained that despite the comments he made last week about opening schools could help ‘herd immunization’, that the ‘issue was not in the equation because there is no scientific consensus on the matter.