On Monday, August 10, 2020, Quebec unveiled its back-to-school plan for the fall season. While the ongoing pandemic presents many logistical challenges for parents and educators, the Quebec Education Ministry is determined to restart elementary and high school classes according to schedule. With mandatory mask-wearing, social distancing, and a strict health and safety protocol, it's obvious that this will be a school year unlike any other.
"All schools will soon be ready to welcome our students and school staff in the safest environments possible," said Jean-François Roberge, Minister of Education in a statement.
"Our children and our health are our most precious things. Our government does not intend to compromise on these issues. I would like to thank all the school organizations, our partners and the staff, who, like us, will continue to work very hard in the coming weeks.
"The efforts we are making together will make this operation a success, for the benefit of the students."
While there have been concerns over the health of both students and teachers, the government assured Quebecers that the return to school will go as smoothly and safely as possible.
If you have a child or if you're going back to school yourself, here's what you need to know about the plan.
Mandatory Mask-Wearing & Social Distancing
For all students in Grade 5 or above, wearing a mask will be mandatory except in the classroom. The rule will only apply to common areas such as hallways, cafeterias, auditoriums, and gymnasiums.
In common areas, social distancing will be enforced in large facilities such as cafeterias, auditoriums, and gyms.
Teachers must also wear a mask in common areas and maintain two metres of distance from students.
Preschool teachers will not have to keep their distance from students, but they do have to wear personal protective equipment.
For children aged 10 and up, a mask will be mandatory on all public transport including school buses.
The government recommends "stable class groups," meaning that the students in one class won't be allowed to have contact with those outside their group.
Teachers will move between rooms so class groups can stay in one place.
No physical distancing will be required between students in these groups. However, teachers must keep two metres of distance whenever possible.
What Happens If There's An Outbreak?
In the event that a student exhibits symptoms of COVID-19 or gets tested for COVID-19, parents must notify the school immediately.
If the school detects an outbreak, the parents and staff will be notified and steps will be taken to ensure the safety of everyone potentially affected.
Protocols are in the works to offer an at-home study program in the event of an outbreak.
School attendance will be mandatory for all students except those with a "health vulnerability" and medical note.