Return to school: Bring your own sanitizer, Quebec student advises fellow kids

Sebastian Weiss is advising other kids who may be returning to school to bring their own hand sanitizer because the stuff at his Quebec City school “smells pretty bad.”

He also warns to cut back on any expectation of excitement: there are no gym classes and no library time.

The Grade 5 student told CTV’s Your Morning Friday that arrows and logos painted by teachers on the floor in the hallway show students how to move and where to stand. And he’s allowed only four books from the class library.

All eyes in Canada are on Quebec, the first province to widely reopen schools, even as the province has 26,544 active cases of COVID-19. The measure affects all areas except Montreal, where schools are scheduled to welcome back students on May 25.

The return to school is optional for families and is only for the elementary grades. High school and junior collegestudents will not go back until the fall.

Sebastian’s mother Kristy Findlay said her kids are in good health and she felt it was important to get them back into a routine. She also says that children have only played a passive role in the pandemic so far.

“But we saw this as a way for them to play an active role by testing out the measures the government is suggesting, that public health is putting forth, allowing them to either show that it works or show that we need to do some tweaking so that we can open up the schools in September when real learning has to happen and when kids who may have more fragile health want to get back to class as well.”

Class sizes are limited to 15 children and officials expected about 60 per cent of eligible students would return this week.

They came back to a transformed school experience.

Playground equipment is still off-limits and schools are limiting the number of kids out a recess at one time. Desks are spaced out. Physical education and library time is no more. There are no school lunches, either.

On school buses, students can only sit one per bench and the driver sits behind a plastic shield.

Students are reminded often to wash their hands.

Sebastian says he and his classmates spent the first half of the first day back going over all the new rules and, after a trip home for lunch, he came back to an afternoon-long refresher on what his class had been studying before schools closed down.

Quebec has faced criticism about the decision to reopen schools, despite having the country’s highest COVID-19 caseload.

Premier Francois Legault has answered by saying the risk of the virus is limited in young people and that children, especially vulnerable ones, are much better off to be in school with their teachers and friends.

Legault says public health officials will closely monitor the situation and will adjust the rules as necessary.

Some provinces, such as Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia, have cancelled the remainder of the school year. British Columbia has opened a limited number of schools for children of essential workers but will not generally reopen classes until the fall.

In Ontario, where there is the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases, schools are officially closed until May 31. After saying it would have more to say this week about the remainder of the academic year, Ontario’s education minister said Wednesday that a decision will be announced early next week.

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