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Quebec teachers request exemptions as school year set to begin

Coronavirus: Growing number of Quebec teachers request medical exemption
WATCH: Just one day before the start of school for many students, the Quebec English School Board Association has revealed that hundreds of teachers have requested a medical exemption from their job. As Felicia Parrillo reports, some fear it could spell out a severe staff shortage if the trend continues.

As parents and students anxiously wait for the first bell to ring, hundreds of teachers will not be returning to school amid the coronavirus health crisis.

According to the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA), preliminary data shows that around 150 teachers have requested medical exemptions.

Reasons range from health conditions, to pregnancies and age.

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The association says they expect the numbers to continue to rise in the coming days.

“School is gonna look different and feel different than a regular school year,” said QESBA Executive Director Russell Copeman. “So I would say all of that contributes to this sort of heightened anxiety.”

The English Montreal School Board said it too, has received requests for exemptions, but it is still compiling the numbers.

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“At the moment, I can’t give you an exact number, but it’s a few dozen,” said Mike Cohen, spokesperson for the English Montreal School Board. “We should know by the end of the week. There’s obviously a lot of back-and-forth with the schools to ensure proper staffing is being done.”

Coronavirus: How to prepare kids for back to school this fall
Coronavirus: How to prepare kids for back to school this fall

Meanwhile, school boards have also seen a fair number of early retirements.

The president of the Pearson Teachers Union says many mature teachers are saddened to end their career this way.

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“They described it as a sour taste in their mouth,” said Matt Wilson. “They’ve taught for 30-plus years and to just leave with a whimper, rather than on their terms, was probably the hardest thing they were faced with in making this decision.”

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Wilson says the absences are creating an even bigger issue.

“We’re hearing from schools left and right that they’re desperately trying to find teachers, but we know we’re already in a teacher shortage,” said Wilson. “It’s hard to find teachers, when we’re already short of them.”