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Quebec Teachers' Unions Have Concerns About The Plan To Reopen Schools

Elementary schools reopen in May.
Quebec Teachers' Unions Have Concerns About The Plan To Reopen Schools

After public health officials decided to gradually reopen Quebec schools, teacher's unions across the province expressed concerns about the government's decision. Premier François Legault announced that elementary schools and daycares would welcome students back on May 11 in most regions of Quebec. In the Montreal metropolitan area, including Laval, those schools will open on May 19. 

The government acknowledged the concerns of both teachers and parents at its April 27 press briefing and Education Minister Jean-François Roberge assured that all schools will follow strict public health guidelines

But many teachers' unions, including the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (QPAT), the Fédération Autonome de l'Enseignment (FAE), and the Fédération des Syndicats de l'Enseignment-CSQ (FSE-CSQ) have raised questions about the prospect of reopening.

The FAE, for instance, has denounced "the announcement by the government of François Legault to gradually reopen primary schools in Quebec" because teachers were not "consulted or informed." 

It's also dubious about the science behind the concept of "natural immunity."

It argues that the government has some explaining to do. 

The consortium of unions at the FSE-CSQ agrees.

"There are still hundreds of logistical questions that need to be answered, particularly with regard to the health and safety of staff, students and their families," said Sonia Ethier, President of the CSQ.

Sylvain Mallette, president of the FAE said that "obviously, Prime Minister François Legault has been developing this plan for some time, while the teachers have not been involved."

"In fact, the government of Quebec uses the network of public primary schools and vocational training centers to build collective immunity and revive Quebec's economic activity. We will not accept that the teachers are not protected and that they go to the front without armour." 

In a message posted to YouTube, QPAT President Heidi Yetman responded to the government's decision to reopen schools and addressed the concerns of teachers across Quebec.

"I have to say these press conferences have created more questions than answers," said Yetman. "Our job at QPAT is to make sure the teachers are safe — and we have many concerns."

"As a society, we've been told for over a month that if you stay home, you'll be safe. And now, we're being told it's time to leave our home." 

"For many of you, your working conditions were already difficult before the pandemic and the return will not be easy," stressed Yetman. 

"We are told that public education is essential for students. I wonder if the government will remember that in the future."

Should worse come to worst, the government hasn't ruled out closing schools or businesses again.

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