At a press conference on April 27, 2020, Quebec Premier François Legault announced the gradual reopening of elementary schools and daycares in Quebec. A few hours later, Minister of Education and Higher Education Jean‑François Roberge, accompanied by Minister of Families Mathieu Lacombe, unveiled the reopening plan details.
Quebec elementary schools located outside the Montreal Metropolitan Community (MMC) will reopen on May 11, 2020. For schools located within the MMC, the reopening date is set for May 19, 2020, provided that the situation remains stable. However, should the situation deteriorate in the next few days, that date may be reviewed.
While returning to school is not mandatory, the Minister of Education strongly encourages it, especially for children with learning difficulties.
In order to apply social distancing measures, classes will have a maximum of 15 students. Parents who intend to send their children back to school are asked to notify the school at least one week in advance to allow the school system to properly assess its needs. In the event of overcrowding, elementary students may be sent to high schools, which are to reopen in September.
During the press conference, it was indicated that parents with health problems are encouraged to keep their children at home. Furthermore, children with chronic illnesses or immune deficiencies should not return to school at this time. The same recommendations apply to teachers as well: those over the age of 60 or with health concerns are encouraged not to return to work. Wearing protective masks is not mandatory for teachers.
In addition, parents will soon be able to retrieve, upon invitation from their children’s schools, educational materials left behind in their children’s lockers.
Technological assistance will also be provided to families who do not have a tablet at their disposal and are therefore unable to maintain contact with their schools. The Quebec Government is prepared to provide more than 15,000 Internet-connected tablets to such families.
As for school transportation, protective measures (such as Plexiglas panels) will be put in place on buses. The number of students allowed onto a bus will be limited to the number of benches available. The Government is also encouraging parents who can drive their children to school to opt out of school bus transportation to make room for those who need it.
As is the case for elementary schools, daycares—childcare centres, daycare centres and family daycares—will also gradually resume their normal activities.
As of May 4, 2020, emergency daycare services will be available to school personnel preparing for their return to work. As of May 11, 2020, daycares outside the MMC will be able to reopen, whereas daycares within the MMC will be able to reopen as of May 19, 2020. However, at first, not all parents will be able to drop their children off at daycare centres. In fact, daycares will have to reduce the size of their groups by half, with the overall occupancy rate of a daycare’s facility not exceeding 30 per cent; note that the occupancy rate of emergency daycare services is currently about four per cent. Access to daycare services will therefore be allowed in phases based on updates made to the list of priority services and commercial activities and, therefore, parents’ occupations.
The Government of Quebec announced that it will provide educators with protective equipment—masks, visors and gloves—and that educators will be asked to wear it to carry out certain tasks.
Access to these childcare services will be optional. Daycare spaces of children who are kept home by their parents will be reserved until September 1, 2020, at no charge. In this regard, the Government will financially compensate childcare centres, daycare centres and family daycares for their loss of income.
Finally, as with the recommendations for elementary school, parents who fall into any of the following categories are strongly advised not to send their preschool-age children to daycare until further notice: (i) pregnant mothers; (ii) parents aged 60 or older; (iii) parents who suffer from a chronic illness or have an immune deficiency; and (iv) parents at risk of complications were they to contract COVID-19.
High Schools, CEGEPs and Universities
The reopening of high schools, CEGEPs and universities has been pushed to early September, with distance teaching to continue until then. This decision was justified by the following two factors: (i) students are more likely to have to use public transit to get to school; and (ii) distance teaching is easier to implement for this population.
One exception was announced by Minister Roberge: vocational training centres will be able to organize half-classes for technical learning, such as welding workshops. Two-metre physical distancing will have to be applied during such workshops.
For further information, please contact:
Natalie Bussière 514-982-4080
Sarah Rohmann 514-982-4120
or any other member of our Employment & Labour group.
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