Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge announced during a press conference in Montreal on Tuesday that schools are set to reopen in the province come September.
School attendance will be compulsory come the fall, with the exception of special medical conditions.
Students in preschools, elementary schools and high schools up to Grade 9 will attend class full time, according to Roberge.
“A lot of specialists and pediatricians say of course, the virus is dangerous, but not going to school is dangerous too,” Roberge said. “It’s dangerous for our success rate, it’s dangerous for the kids, it’s dangerous for their mental health.”
Students from preschool through Grade 9 will be divided into subgroups of six or fewer where physical distancing won’t be required. However, they will be asked to stay two metres away from teachers and one metre from other students.
High schoolers in their two final years will have flexibility to alternate between home and the classroom.
CEGEPs and universities will be permitted to reopen with a hybrid option of online and in-class learning with 1.5-metre physical-distancing rules in place in lecture halls.
The education minister said an emergency protocol will also be put in place in the event of a second wave of the virus to ensure schooling continues online even if schools are again forced to close.
Roberge said the province wasn’t ready to employ distance learning when schools abruptly closed in mid-March but adds they’ve learned much during the past three months.
High schools, universities and CEGEPs in the province have been closed since mid-March and students had to turn to online education due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Elementary school students were deprived of school for several weeks before being able to return to class in May, on a voluntary basis, in most regions of Quebec. Primary schools in the Greater Montreal and Joliette regions, however, remained closed until the end of the school year.
On Monday, the province announced that starting June 22, indoor public gatherings of up to 50 people will be permitted, and physical-distancing requirements for children 16 and under will be reduced to one metre instead of two.
Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s director of public health, said during the press conference that in some circumstances where people don’t frequently circulate or speak to each other, such as in movie theatres, physical distancing will be reduced to 1.5 metres.
Gatherings inside private homes, however, are still restricted to 10 people from a maximum of three households. Such gatherings were permitted as of Monday across most of Quebec, while in the Montreal area, 10 people will be allowed to gather inside homes beginning June 22.
— With files from The Canadian Press