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Primary schools in Quebec — how’s it going?

by Juliette Palin October 19, 2020
Primary schools in Quebec — how’s it going?

In the midst of the second wave, schools and parents struggle with how to protect the children from the second wave of COVID-19

Montreal has been experiencing a full-fledged second wave of COVID-19, and has gone into lockdown since Oct. 1. With the number of cases rising, the provincial government has put new measures in place.

Dining rooms, libraries, museums and theatres have closed, and home gatherings are now banned. Additionally, social distancing is being reinforced, and masks are now mandatory during any demonstration or protest.

However, primary and secondary schools have remained open. When Premier François Legault addressed the province in a press conference at the end of September, he made his goal clear: “Our objective is first of all to protect the schools.”

Santé Montreal shows that there are currently 616 cases in the 5-9 age group, compared to Sept. 12 when there were only 376 cases, representing a 63.8 per cent increase. For older children, aged 10-19, there are currently 2,459 cases, compared to 1,321 cases from a month ago.

There has been plenty of controversy over the decision to keep schools open, and if the government should give parents a choice when it comes to their children’s education.

Charlotte Fritsch, an after-school caretaker at École Saint-Joseph in the Plateau, explained that it’s important to give kids the normalcy of going to school.

“Let [the children] go to school, see their teachers, see their friends in their class … these are formative years in their development when they are so young.”

The primary schools typically operate in smaller groups. Every classroom is a bubble, meaning children can play and interact normally with others in their bubble. Only the adults are required to wear protective gear such as masks and safety goggles or a visor. Fritsch explained that even though safety measures are in place, some gaps still remain.

“But as employees, educators, teachers, we really do our best to remind them of the rules, [such as] to take different paths and avoid colliding with another person,” said Fritsch.

Katrina Chionidis, a mother to an 11-year-old, is struggling with the second wave. After losing her job in the service industry due to COVID shutdowns, she now has nothing but time to homeschool her kids.

She said, “Second lockdown I found has hit me, my staff, and my family a lot harder than the first one. And the first one was a lot longer.”

However, a common misconception is that parents in Quebec are allowed to remove their kids from school for remote learning, similar to Ontario. Quebec does not allow for kids to be taken out of school unless justified by a medical cause.

Chionidis said, “We don’t have a choice … If I had the option, [the school] wouldn’t call the Directeur de la Protection de la Jeunesse on me, which is what they threatened to do when I asked if I could keep him out of school.”

Chionidis explained that in her case, she should have that choice, since online learning was successful for her family in the past.

“Every class in my son’s school has smart boards. So what would it cost [to install] a webcam so he would be able to do the home schooling like we did during the first lockdown,” asked Chionidis.

Although there is a lot of concern over the loss of normality in childrens’ lives, Chionidis believes that this isn’t an issue.

“This isn’t normal [either]. Let’s say you have a five [or] six year old year old, kindergarten or grade one. You are now asking this child to sit at a desk for seven hours a day. That’s not normal.”

However, there are many parents who don’t have the ability to stay home and care for their children full time in addition to providing for their family.

According to these parents, it is important for schools to remain open, and respect the safety guidelines that come from the Quebec national institute of public health.

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