COVID-19: Quebec students could see no masks, end of classroom bubbles in fall

Teachers greet their students in the school yard at the Philippe-Labarre Elementary School in Montreal, on Thursday, August 27, 2020. Thousands of Quebec students return to class in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

Quebec students can expect a certain “return to normalcy” when they head back to class this fall if certain COVID-19 vaccination levels are attained, according to the province’s education minister.

Jean-François Roberge gave details of the plan for the 2021-2022 school year Wednesday as the government eases pandemic-induced restrictions and the province gradually reopens.

“Today is a good day,” he told reporters in Quebec City.

Under the plan, students will not be expected to wear masks and class outings will also be permitted for the next academic year. Classroom bubbles will be nixed.

Roberge said high school students can expect to return to in-person classes on a full-time basis. Extracurricular activities can also resume.

READ MORE: Gyms, dining rooms to reopen as Montreal, Laval move to orange zones next week

But lifting restrictions in schools is contingent upon 75 per cent of children aged 12 to 17 being vaccinated by next fall.

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“It’s very important that everyone including our adolescents get vaccinated,” Roberge said.

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He says the uptake in that age group is encouraging, with about 45 per cent having already received a vaccine or having made an appointment, and he says many more kids are expected to be vaccinated through their schools in the coming weeks. Immunization is essential to having a good summer and a better school year, he added.

When asked what would happen if the inoculation target is not met, the director of Quebec public health said that the whole plan wouldn’t be shelved.

“We will re-evaluate the situation,” Dr. Horacio Arruda said.

A final decision will be made at the end of the summer, he said.

READ MORE: Quebec reports fewer than 300 new COVID-19 cases as several regions downgraded to orange

Arruda also said his office will re-evaluate its decision to cancel proms for graduating high school seniors. He said that while current vaccine rates among youth are too low for traditional proms, he will reconsider when, and in what form, celebrations can safely take place.

As part of the plan for next year, Quebec will maintain cleaning and disinfection measures in schools to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. It also requires students frequently wash their hands and includes improved ventilation systems in schools.

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Screening will also still be used for children with symptoms. A protocol will also be in place for positive cases and potential outbreaks in schools, Roberge added.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Montreal, Laval moving to orange zone on June 7'
COVID-19: Montreal, Laval moving to orange zone on June 7

— With files from The Canadian Press

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