Quebec’s education minister has unveiled a series of measures to help students achieve success as they head back to class during the ongoing health crisis.
Jean-François Roberge outlined the details at a press conference in Quebec City on Monday morning, one week after the province put forth its new back-to-school plan.
As part of the measures, the government is investing $20 million as a “safety net” to help students catch up amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding will be used to hire more staff — such as teachers and technicians — and carry out individual follow-ups for students, according to Roberge.
While Roberge estimated the $20-million investment could represent as many as 350 full-time jobs, he said the money could also be used for part-time contracts depending on a school’s needs.
The province is also waiving a bureaucratic process for two years to allow schools to immediately access funding for students who have learning difficulties. Roberge said the move will help provide up to 560,000 hours in “direct services” to students as soon as school starts.
The government is launching an awareness campaign to ensure parents know about the safety measures in schools to curb the spread of COVID-19. The other component of the campaign is to encourage students to continue their studies, according to Roberge.
The order of speech-language pathologists and audiologists welcomed the announcement.
In a statement, the order said it was “particularly pleased” by the government’s plan to cut down on the red tape around funding for students who have disabilities and are assigned a code. Giving schools direct funding will “reduce the administrative tasks performed by professionals in the education network, who will be able to focus on direct services to students,” it added.
Quebec — the province hardest hit by the novel coronavirus — continued to see a drop in new infections Monday after authorities recorded 55 new cases. Since March, there have been 61,206 cases though 53,930 people have recovered.
Authorities reported one additional death, bringing the province’s death toll to 5,721.
The number of patients in hospital dropped by four compared to the previous day, for a total of 145. Of them, there are 25 patients in intensive care.
The province carried out 10,850 COVID-19 tests on Aug. 15, the last day for which testing data is available.
No changes to mandatory in-person attendance
Last week, Roberge announced a revamped plan as teachers, parents and students prepare to head back to the classroom.
Under the plan, staff and students in Grade 5 and above will have to wear masks in common spaces such as hallways — but they will not be required to do so in the classroom.
The revised measures also mean that students will not have to adhere to physical distancing in class, which will act as their bubble.
While all elementary and high school students will be expected to return to school at the end of the month, children with significant health problems will be offered a remote learning option.
Students in Grades 10 and 11 will be able to physically attend classes one out of every two days, if their school cannot organize stable classroom bubbles.
When asked Monday if the province had since considered allowing children to attend online classes, Roberge repeated that students without a medical exemption will have to be homeschooled or attend class in person.
— With files from the Canadian Press