Coronavirus: What should Quebec’s upcoming plan to return to school look like?

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus outbreak: Montreal’s English School Board Association worries about government’s push for herd immunity' Coronavirus outbreak: Montreal’s English School Board Association worries about government’s push for herd immunity
WATCH: Montreal's English School Board Association worries about government's push for herd immunity – Apr 25, 2020

With Quebec Premier François Legault promising to present his plan to reopen Quebec schools next week, there is no shortage of opinions on just how that should play out.

Pointe-Claire resident Cecily Ranger and her daughter Audrey are full of concerns.

“I think rushing it is not the best way, because there are going to be so many things to think about,” said Cecily.

“If we got coronavirus, we could give it to our older relatives,” said Audrey, a grade 4 student.

Children are not nearly as vulnerable to the virus as adults. Legault has said sending kids to school will be optional, which is something the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) agrees with.

“No student should be penalized because their parent keeps them home from school or because their school isn’t opening, region to region,” said Russell Copeman, QESBA’s executive director.

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On Saturday, the association publicized a list of recommendations it sent to the Legault government, including that they create clear guidelines for physical distancing and sanitary measures in schools.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Quebec counts 106 more deaths as crisis continues to hit long-term care homes

“If you’re in the washroom, the stalls aren’t six feet apart,” said Audrey Ranger. “If you’re washing your hands, the sinks aren’t six feet apart either.”

QESBA’s other recommendations include adaptions being made for adult education and vocational training programs, and paying special attention to vulnerable and academically at-risk students. Copeman believes teachers should avoid teaching new material if the current school year resumes.

“We’re looking at revision exercises, and concentrating on vulnerable students to bring them up,” he said.

One way to make social distancing easier would be to make sure classes are not full. Copeman says some jurisdictions have proposed alternating between learning in person and remotely.

“Students may go back to school part time, maybe two days a week in a classroom with half the class, then the other three days remote learning. Then, you switch it up,” he explained.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Quebec parents fear sending kids back to school, concept of ‘herd immunity’

QESBA’s recommendations apply to the next school year starting in the fall as well. The Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (QPAT) says classes should only resume in the fall.

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“Even in the fall, it will need to be a gradual return. School boards and teams need time to prepare for this new reality,” QPAT president Heidi Yetman said in a video posted online.

Legault hopes as activities resume and more people are exposed to the virus, they’ll become immune to it.

“There is no vaccine, so what we want is to have more people that are immunized,” he said at his daily press conference on Friday.

However, the World Health Organization is now saying there is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 are protected from a second infection and Canada’s chief health officer spoke against the idea of herd immunity on Saturday.

“You never know if, even as a young person, you can get really sick or sent to ICU, so it’s not a concept that should be supported,” Dr. Theresa Tam said at a press conference in Ottawa.

Legault has said school is likely to resume in rural regions first because there are far fewer cases there than there are in Montreal and other cities.

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