While schools will remain closed in Greater Montreal until the fall, classes resumed at the MacKay Centre and Philip E. Layton Schools Monday, the first two special-needs facilities in the English Montreal School Board to do so.
They are among other such institutions that have been given the green light to reopen across the province.
It’s the first time they have resumed in-person classes since they were forced to close more than two months ago because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some kids have underlying health conditions and fears of contracting COVID-19 has worried some parents. On Monday, Shirley Coonishish said she was nervous about returning her 14-year-old daughter Aaliyah to classes at MacKay, though it was hard to care for the teen who has cerebral palsy.
“Taking care of her and not having the support at home, doing transfers and just having trying to build up a routine 24-7 with her, that was very challenging,” she told Global News after she dropped off her daughter for her first classes.
“She’s not doing the full days yet just because we’re not sure how she’s going to handle getting back into the routine,” she explained.
Julie Kristof said even her daughter was asking questions about the virus and initially had second thoughts about leaving home.
“But our doctors gave us the go-ahead and I think she was really excited at the same time to see her teachers,” Kristof smiled.
“She’s in Grade 6. This is the last few weeks of her graduating year so we felt it was really important for her to have that social interaction.”
Vice-principal Greg Watson said staff have been preparing for weeks to make sure everything follows health authority guidelines.
“We went through all the classrooms and we took out any non-essential furniture and made sure to socially distance all the desks,” he said.
Only 35 of more than 160 students are back for the rest of the year, Watson said. One reason, he explained, is that many teachers are conducting online classes. He sees this return to classes as a dry run for what’ll happen come September, if COVID-19 measures are still in place.
“That’ll be the real struggle,” he stressed, “and that’ll be a struggle for a lot of schools because we’ll have a lot more numbers.”