Education critic blasts Quebec government for not doing enough to protect schools during second wave
Parti Quebecois education critic Veronique Hivon is calling out the Legault government for mulling closing the province's schools before having improved ventilation in the classes and prioritizing screening among students and staff.
At a news briefing at the National Assembly on Friday, the PQ MNA from Joliette accused the government of remaining inactive instead of working to secure schools.
As a result, the number of COVID-19 cases and closed classrooms in schools more than doubled between Oct. 1 and Nov. 11, and the number of staff cases tripled, she said.
According to the most recent report available, there are 3,034 active cases of COVID-19 in Quebec schools, and no less than 1,214 groups of students are in isolation at home.
"Come on! Get moving! Do something!" said Hivon.
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She believes that Quebec could have provided each class with a portable air purifier and a CO2 detector, in addition to training half-classes in high school, as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Already, Secondary 3, 4 and 5 students are taking distance courses every other day, "except that a complete class is virtual."
"If we did it by half a class, well, we would have a double benefit: fewer students in the school, but also fewer students in the classes," said Hivon.
In terms of screening, Hivon was surprised to learn Friday that schools are ranked 15th in terms of testing priority on the Ministry of Health website.
However, school outbreaks are becoming "extremely powerful vectors of community transmission," she said.
"What we are asking of the government is that, if it is serious in its desire to prioritize the opening of schools, if it wants to do everything to avoid the closure of schools, it is time to put all means in place on the ventilation side, on the half-class attendance side and on the screening prioritization side," said said. "There is a lot of work still to be done by the government before telling us that the only solution which stands before it is to close the schools."
On Thursday, Premier Francois Legault confirmed the government was assessing the possibility of closing schools for a time around the holiday season in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
He said he wanted to discuss with the teachers' unions the idea of extending the school year to June and even July.
On Friday, the teachers federation (FAE) and parents federation (FCPQ) announced that they rejected the scenario of an extended closure during the holidays.
-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 13, 2020.