Parents and students are reacting with anger and confusion to the Quebec government’s back-to-school COVID-19 plan.
Education Minister Jean-François Roberge unveiled an updated back-to-school plan on Monday and families say they find the messaging from authorities conflicting and are insisting that more stringent safety measures be put in place.
“Sending a whole bunch of teachers and students back to school is just going to jump-start the second wave,” 16 year-old Serena Totera fumed in a video she posted to TikTok after the government’s announcement.
“I don’t think (the plan) is going to work,” she told Global News.
According to the plan, all students will be going to school and classes will not be divided into small groups as was previously announced in June.
“Putting a classroom as a bubble of students, that’s like 30, sometimes up to 40 different kids in a class,” she reasoned.
“We don’t know where those kids have been, what they do outside of school — we don’t know if their families are cautious or not, so not reducing the size of the groups doesn’t make any sense.”
Though masks will be mandatory in school common areas for kids in Grade 5 and above, they will not be required inside those classrooms. During a press conference Monday, Quebec Health Director Horacio Arruda claimed that wearing a mask all the day is difficult for kids.
Totera, who takes dance lessons, thinks that’s nonsense.
“If I can dance for three hours in my mask, which I just did today, then anybody can wear a mask to school,” she insisted.
Thirteen year-old Amanda Toledano agrees that students can adapt to wearing a mask for long periods and says she would have to, even though she finds wearing one difficult. She fears another lockdown if there aren’t stricter measures in schools.
“When I talk to my friends we always talk about how we just want this to be over so we can see each other more,” she told Global News, adding that the issue is worrying her so much, she’s having dreams.
“That I’d be going to school either forgetting my mask, or that somehow I would be putting on a mask but it would just like somehow disappear or something,” she said, describing those dreams.
Her mother Tanya Toledano, meanwhile, is angry about what she sees as mixed messaging from the government
“I couldn’t merge the idea of 20, 25 kids in a classroom, masks off, no distancing, with everything that we’ve been educated to believe up to this point,” she said.
She made that point clear in an open letter to Arruda and Premier François Legault, saying, “I cannot even begin to comprehend how you are making these recommendations which go against everything that you have taught us to do in our own homes as well as in public areas.”
Physician and Global News medical expert Dr. Mitch Shulman hopes the government will revisit the idea of having large classes.
“They should be looking at smaller classroom sizes, distancing between the students, more wearing of masks,” he stressed.
To help support her position, Totera has launched a petition calling on the government to reinforce safety in schools when they open in three weeks’ time.