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Coronavirus: Parents, teachers, students protest Quebec’s back-to-school plans

Click to play video 'Parents, teachers and students protest Quebec back-to-school plan' Parents, teachers and students protest Quebec back-to-school plan
WATCH: Teachers are headed back to school as of Monday and very soon children will also be filling up classrooms. Concerned and dissatisfied with the back-to-school plan, Montrealers are speaking up. Parents, students and educators rallied on Sunday in front of the Minister of Education's office calling out the measures in place. Global's Kwabena Oduro has the details – Aug 23, 2020

On the eve of teachers’ return to school, and only a few days before the return of students, parents, students and school staff rallied against the province’s back-to-school plan in front of the offices of the Minister of Education.

“I’m not feeling safe sending my children in high school or elementary, and as a daycare educator, I feel like the bubble will not be respected and we are just going to have more people in quarantine,” says Maria Santino, daycare educator and parent.

Under the plan, masks will not be mandatory in the classroom. They will be obligatory in common areas and hallways in schools for elementary school, high school and post-secondary students as well as teachers and staff.

The revised measures also mean Quebec students will not be separated into small bubbles within their classes as was previously announced by the government.

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Educators have been planning for the return of students, but elementary school teacher Rachel Shugart says the classroom bubbles will be easily broken.

“There are siblings in our school, obviously multiple sibling groups that are going to be multiple grades, there are kids who are neighbours, and there are kids who carpool together,” Shugart said.

READ MORE: Swift reaction from Quebec parents, students to province’s back-to-school plan

Students will not have to practise physical distancing in class, but they must remain at least two metres apart from one another in common spaces.

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.

Quebec is also maintaining an option for students in Grades 10 and 11 to physically attend classes one out of every two days, if their school cannot organize stable classroom bubbles.

Teachers and parents are concerned about how testing for students and educators will work.

“What happens if a teacher needs to be tested? What happens if the children do need to go home and be quarantined, are there going to be enough teachers to continue teaching them online? for example,” Marion Miller, a contract teacher at the Centre de Service Scolaire Montreal.

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Student teacher Natalie Willett said she is worried about the spread of the virus.

“I also have a part-time job so that I can afford to go to school, so I worry if I end up student teaching at a school that has to quarantine, that’s going to affect my going to classes and also affect me going to my part-time job, which pays for my tuition,” Willett told Global News.

READ MORE: Quebec invests $20M to help students catch up as they head back to school

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 earlier in August, Quebec Health director Horacio Arruda said wearing a mask all the day is difficult for kids.

“Wearing a mask all the day is difficult for an adult, so imagine for kids,” Dr. Arruda said.

Students at the rally told Global News they’re excited to go back into classes but they have concerns of their own.

“It’s not that hard to put a rule in place — we can wear masks just as well as anyone else,” said Elle-Rose Robichaud.

“Mostly, I want to have more adequate security procedures making masks mandatory,” her sister Julianne added.

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Their father has asthma, and had pancreatitis. They worry about his health and safety.

“If it continues like it is, like how they plan to do it, he will need to start living in the basement,” Robichaud said.