Minister of education announces updates for return to school
Jean-François Roberge, Quebec Minister of Education, announced August 11 that students will be required to wear masks while on the school bus and in common areas like hallways and entrances. However, they will not be required to wear masks in class or when
outdoors. Students will have assigned seating on the school bus. Students will also not be required to social distance.
Additionally, the government is not mandating class bubbles, used last year in order to limit exposure to the virus. The lack of class bubbles and the presence of the delta variant in the community could pose a challenge this fall. For elementary school students, there will be no restrictions in after school daycare.
Vaccine passports will be required in high schools for certain high risk extracurricular activities. The activities that are deemed high risk have yet to be announced.
According to the Health Canada Infobase, 81% of children ages 12-17 have at least one dose and 47% are fully vaccinated. Elementary school children do not yet have access to the vaccine.
“I’m disappointed. It’s definitely a step backwards in terms of being prudent,” said Olivier Drouin, father of two and founder of Covid École Québec, when asked about Minister Roberge’s plan. “As of today, there are 4.89 times more cases in Quebec than this time last year and fewer measures in schools. He is less prudent than last year.”
Roberge also discussed the air quality in schools, saying that CO2 monitors will be installed in schools by December 2021, and not before school starts as was previously promised. There was no mention of air purification units being installed.
Heidi Yetman, President of the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (QPAT) said, “Not much has changed. I would have liked to see more measures put in place. Quebec has 400 new cases today. I expect that measure will be increased throughout the school year. My main concern is the elementary students who are not vaccinated.”
Yetman also explained that teachers were not widely consulted. QPAT was invited to a meeting with the Minister of Education for half an hour. The concerns that were brought forward were not addressed in the conference. She said, “It felt as though it was already decided upon before we were consulted.”
Other provinces, such as Ontario, are making masks mandatory indoors for teachers and staff.