New safety measures expected for schools but teachers say breaking point is looming

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in Quebec's schools, the province's teachers are warning that they are reaching a breaking point.

“When it comes to the actions of the government, I feel they've done almost nothing to keep us safe,” said Westmount High School teacher Robert Green.

The president of the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers said the province's skyrocketing COVID-19 cases can at least in part be attributed to school conditions.

“Schools are the perfect place for this,” said Heidi Yetman. “They're not social distancing in the classroom, the ventilation is poor, they're not wearing masks. All you need is one and it will spread like wildfire.”

On Monday, which is also World Teachers Day, Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge is scheduled to hold a press conference. On Friday, Premier Francois Legault hinted that extra safety measures could be announced for schools.

“We have no recommendation at this time to ask all children to wear masks in the classroom,” he said. “But the studying and discussions are going on and we may have something new by Monday.”

Legault has remained firm that closing schools is a last resort, even in the province's red zones.

But Green said any new measures need to address problems with no easy solutions, such as class sizes that need to be smaller and an online learning option. Both of which would be hard to address in a province with a chronic teacher shortage.

“The chickens are coming home to roost in terms of conditions that governments for years in Quebec have created in our public schools,” he said.

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