Teachers association calls for school year to begin after Labour Day over COVID-19 concerns

As the fall semester nears, and Quebec's government prepares to release its back-to-school plan, Quebec's teachers are calling for classes to be postponed to after Labour Day.

Heidi Yetman, president of the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers, said there are too many unknowns to re-open classrooms as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

“There's so many unanswered questions and when you have uncertainty, that creates anxiety,” she said.

Among the questions with no answers are what contingencies plans will be for when a teacher or student gets sick or if another shutdown is required. Yetman also expressed concern over class sizes and sanitary measures.

“There are a lot of very old schools with poor ventilation,” she said. “I've been in classes where the windows don't even open.”

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube said on Monday that the back-to-school plan's details will be released next week but Yetman said teachers are worried they won't have enough time to prepare for a unique school year.

“Can we not delay school until after Labour Day? That would give all the school teams the time they need to prepare the entry in the fall.”

In June, Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge announced a plan to set up bubbles of no more than six students where social distancing measures wouldn't be necessary. Yetman said many teachers have their doubts about that plan.

Liberal education critic Marwah Rizqy said much has changed since June, such as the introduction of mandatory masks.

“If the mask is mandatory, who is going to pay for it?” she said. “Do we have enough masks for all the kids? We have to keep in mind, there's over 1 million students here in Quebec.”

Rizqy called on the ruling Coalition Avenir Quebec to release their plan before the end of the week.

“A week from now is going to be a little too short for us to make sure it's going to be a safe back-to-school for everyone,” she said.  

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