A different look for Gatineau classrooms as Quebec schools reopen

The Province of Quebec is reopening elementary schools outside Montreal Monday, but students will not be coming back to the classrooms they left.

Enrollment numbers are expected to be low, since attendance is not mandatory. The English-language Western Quebec School Board, for example, says only 14 per cent of its elementary school students will be returning to their classrooms this week. Online learning will continue provincewide for students who do not return to a physical classroom.

Schools in western Quebec will remain closed Monday to give teachers a day for training in the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Classroom sizes will be smaller than before, with a maximum of just 15 students per class. Desks will be placed two metres apart in the classrooms, and recesses will be staggered throughout the day.

The gymnasiums, libraries and cafeterias will remain closed, and kids will not be allowed to play on any play structures outside.

Students will be required to sanitize their hands before entering and will be instructed to wash their hands frequently.

A video from Eardley Elementary School in Gatineau walks students through what a typical day will look like.

'Schools have become daycares': Union

Some teachers are concerned it may still be too early to return to class.

Heidi Yetman, President of the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers, told CTV Morning Live she has many concerns.

"If you look across North America, there's not another place that's opening schools, so that's concerning," she told CTV Morning Live's Leslie Roberts.

Yetman says she believes the reopening of schools right now is mainly to give parents a place to send their children, so that they can return to work.

"I think what's happened is schools have become daycares," she said. "I hate to say that, it sounds awful, but that's the sensation that we're getting, that this is for the economy."

Yetman said most of the teachers she's heard from are worried about returning to school but she believes they will persevere in the face of this new challenge.

"Teachers are amazing! They'll come up with great ideas and I'm sure the kids will be well taken care of, but of course they're worried. They're concerned for their health and the health and safety of the children they're teaching. These children go home after school, too, and it would be terrible to see another increase in COVID-19 cases because of this reopening."

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