Decision imminent on extending school winter holiday break in Quebec

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MONTREAL — Quebec Premier Francois Legault will hold a press conference at 5 p.m. Thursday during which he may announce his government's decision on the holiday school calendar taking into account the state of the coronavirus pandemic.

The news conference in Montreal will also include Minister of Education Jean-Francois Roberge, his colleague from Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, as well as Quebec director of public health Horacio Arruda.

One of the main scenarios mentioned so far by Legault is to extend the school holidays by one or two weeks in January so that schoolchildren have a form of quarantine between holiday festivities and their return to class.

School daycare workers have already expressed their opposition to the possibility of their services being maintained if there were to be leave for teachers and students.

On the other hand, it seems possible the government is restricting permitting gatherings during the Holidays in order to limit the possibilities of COVID-19 transmission and thus make it safer to return to class on the dates scheduled for January.

So far, Legault has not seemed enthusiastic about the possibility of offering distance education to students.

On Wednesday, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced he was waiving extended school vacations, believing that current protocols in schools were sufficient to keep school children safe.

TRADE UNIONS SAY NO TO LOCKDOWN

Three national trade union centres say that the Legault government’s decision to keep school daycares’ doors open is “unacceptable” if it is also extending the holiday break to counteract the spread of coronavirus.

In a public statement on Thursday morning the three union centres - CSQ, CSN and FTQ - said that, if the intention of the government is really to counteract the virus’ spread by extending the holiday break, it shouldn’t only take half measures.

The three groups maintain that it is impossible to sustain the more secure idea of “bubble classrooms” or social distancing in a school daycare setting.

CSQ president Sonia Éthier, for whom a majority of members work in education, said that keeping school daycares open would compromise the efforts of public health in mitigating propagation of the virus.

The three centres are calling upon the government to be more “coherent” in its decisions, asking Quebec to close daycares in schools if it chooses to keep schools closed before and after Christmas.

— this report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 19, 2020.

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