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‘They don’t have the power’: Quebec says English school boards will not mandate reopening

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus outbreak: Quebec English parent association disappointed with QESBA’s position on reopening of schools' Coronavirus outbreak: Quebec English parent association disappointed with QESBA’s position on reopening of schools
WATCH: Quebec English parent association disappointed with QESBA's push back against the government's school reopening plan – May 2, 2020
Quebec’s education ministry said in a statement on Sunday that the province’s English school boards do not have the legal power to delay the reopening of schools.
The Quebec government responded to the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA)’s push back against the government’s school reopening plan.
On Friday, QESBA released a joint statement from all nine member boards saying its school boards don’t yet feel safe enough to reopen their establishments. It said that its school boards will decide if and when each of their establishments will reopen, once they are sure that all safety conditions can be met.
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This came after the Quebec government laid out its plan — which does not force children to return — of the gradual reopening of schools across the province on Monday.
“There are still far too many unknowns that compromise the ability to safely reopen,” said a statement from QESBA, which represents 340 English education establishments across the province.
The association said that the safety measures issued by public health required in order to reopen, including reduced class sizes (maximum 15 students), two-metre physical distancing, no group meals, enhanced sanitary measures and cleaning, a 75 per cent reduction of the number of children on school buses and no staff over the age of 60, might not be possible in all schools.
“We are convinced that the international health considerations cannot be met by the deadlines the government is imposing,” said QESBA president Dan Lamoureux.
Sunday’s statement from the education ministry, however, said it’s up to public health to make the call as to what’s safe or not.
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The government said that public health carefully evaluated all aspects and made an informed decision to approve the government’s plan. The statement also recalled that Quebec’s pediatric association has called for schools to reopen for the physical and mental health, development and well-being of children.

Quebec’s English Parents’ Committee Association of Quebec (EPCA) also commented on the issue on Friday after QESBA released its statement, saying it was disappointed with the association’s position to push back against the government’s schedule, especially since sending children back to class has been made optional. The EPCA said many parents want the choice.

The association said 12 per cent of parents they surveyed were prepared to send their kids back to school and 23 per cent were undecided. The association added that 63 per cent of parents believe it at least necessary to have the option to do so.

Lamoureux however called the government’s strategy a “hastily announced plan” that the public does not feel confident about. He said the plan is also significantly raising anxiety levels among parents and teachers — noting the petition to halt the reopening of schools in Quebec that has widely circulated online.

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Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Quebec to reopen primary schools, daycares in May' COVID-19: Quebec to reopen primary schools, daycares in May
COVID-19: Quebec to reopen primary schools, daycares in May – Apr 27, 2020
Still, Quebec’s education ministry spokesperson Francis Bouchard said “English school boards will go through with the safe, gradual, and non-obligatory scheduled reopening as laid out in the government’s plan.”
He added that the government will not hesitate to walk-back its strategy if public health officials — who are closely monitoring the epidemiological situation — advise them to.

Elementary schools and daycares in zones less affected by the COVID-19 outbreak will open on May 11. This does not include any schools or daycares in the greater Montreal region, which remains the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak. Then, if COVID-19 hospitalizations remain stable or decrease, elementary schools and daycares in the greater Montreal region will gradually open starting on May 19.

The government has stressed that sending children back to school and daycare is optional, and has recommended that children with health issues or children who live with at-risk people should stay home.

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On Sunday QESBA said it had no further comment as the government had not yet communicated directly to the association.

Click to play video: 'Quebec English School Boards Association pushes back on reopening of schools' Quebec English School Boards Association pushes back on reopening of schools
Quebec English School Boards Association pushes back on reopening of schools – May 1, 2020

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