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Coronavirus: Quebec to allow interscholastic sports to resume with restrictions next week

Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge speaks to the press on September 11, 2020. Roberge announced prior to entering the CAQ's pre-session caucus meeting that interscholastic sports will be permitted in the province's grade schools as of September 14. Jean-Vincent Verville / Global News

The Quebec government announced Friday that extracurricular programs including interscholastic sports will be permitted to resume in schools on Monday.

Sports-Études and Arts-Études programs will also resume on that date, Sept. 14.

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge made the announcement in a press conference called before the governing Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) resumed its pre-session caucus meeting in Quebec City.

Read more: Quebecers who don’t respect coronavirus mask guidelines to face fines, premier warns

Roberge said the coronavirus pandemic is generally “under control” in the province’s schools two weeks after most students returned to class.

“Of course, we have some little glitches. It’s not perfect all around Quebec, but each day we are getting better and better,” he said.

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That stands in marked contrast to Premier François Legault’s warnings last week of a “general relaxation” in Quebecers’ approach to pandemic-related health restrictions, and a general uptick in COVID-19 cases recorded in recent days compared to the final weeks of the summer.

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The announcement arrives in tandem with this week’s introduction of Quebec’s colour-coded alert system, which grades each region in the province as green, yellow, orange or red based on the level of community transmission in the area. Only students in regions determined to be green or yellow will be permitted to partake in extracurricular activities under the new rules.

Right now, three regions — Laval, the Eastern Townships and the Quebec City area — are in the yellow zone, while all others are green. No region is considered to be orange or red at the moment.

Read more: Laval adding 2 new COVID-19 testing centres to accommodate rise in demand

“We arrived with a new system, and we based our system, our rules, on this system from the health (ministry),” Roberge said. “So, in schools in green or yellow zones, kids could go in three other groups: so, his class, his sports team and another sports team.”

“It’s really important for the kids to keep their social distance, and to stay with their groups,” Roberge added. The difference is that now they can take part in more than one group.

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Students will now be permitted to interact with students in up to two other groups in addition to their own, provided their region is located in a green or yellow zone.

Roberge emphasized that the three-group rule will be taken seriously. “They’re not just free to go around and, in one day, meet with 150 other kids,” he said.

The minister added that the current plans are subject to change based on how the pandemic evolves, both across the province and in each region.

“If your region changes colour, I think everybody will be informed, and we will have, maybe, to make some adjustments, if we pass from yellow to orange,” he said. “But let’s work together.”

The Fédération des établissements d’enseignement privés welcomes the news. Spokesperson Éric Deguire, a principal at St-Jean-Vianney College says many students stay motivated at school because of sports and arts programs.

“It’s the reason for success for a lot of students,” Deguire said.

Deguire added there may be delays in resuming extra-curricular activities in some schools. Some institutions had to modify schedules in order to respect the concept of bubbles, so schedules will need to be reviewed once again.