François Legault announced a two-week closure for all schools and daycares in the province.
With the number of COVID-19 cases rising in the province and around the world, the Quebec government announced that schools, CEGEPS, universities and daycares will close for at least two weeks.
This came as a relief for Montreal school boards as the previous measures set by the government were practically impossible, said Antoine El Khoury, general director of the Pointe-de-l’Île school board. The government suggested to close down schools from Friday to Sunday as they discussed alternative measures and that all gatherings of more than 250 people be cancelled.
“We have high schools with 2,000 to 3,000 students that need to have lunch,” said El Khoury. “We thought of dividing lunchtime, but that would mean up to eight different time slots. That’s impossible.”
Some teachers announced on Thursday they would not teach for the time being by fear of contracting the virus. “We can’t oblige them to come to school either,” said El Khoury. “We’re also in the middle of a labour shortage, so finding personnel is an issue.”
Horacio Arruda, director of public health at MSSS Quebec, said in a press conference that children are not at risk of the virus and that this closure is to reduce the risk of transmission.
There are 17 confirmed cases in Quebec thus far, and more than 250 under investigation.
Daycare services will be offered for children with parents in the public service domain, namely police officers and health care professionals. School boards have yet to decide which schools will remain open to accommodate these parents.
Parents outside this sector will have to find alternatives for their children. El Khoury has said that the government has stressed that companies let their employers work from home to take care of their children.
Legault also warned parents that although this decision might inconvenience many, it is necessary to limit the spread of the virus.
Schools are tentatively expected to reopen on March 30. For now, school boards are not worried about catching up on school material.
“The same happened during the ice storm of 1998 and that was not an issue,” said El Khoury. “We are worried that the period might be extended. Then, we might have issues catching up.”
Although he’s not worried about elementary and high schools, El Khoury still believes CEGEPS and universities might have a hard time since their semesters are shorter, and have more material to cover.
A new telephone number was issued after Santé Québec’s 811 received an overwhelming number of calls yesterday. Quebecers can now call 1-877-644-4545 for more information.
Legault also confirmed that daily press conferences are to be expected in order to maintain communication and provide the population with up-to-date information.
Photo by Alex Hutchins