At a press conference on Monday, Education Minister Jean-François Roberge and his colleagues, junior Education Minister Isabelle Charest, Minister of Higher Education Danielle McCann, and medical advisor Dr. Richard Massé, announced a set of new health rules for schools in Quebec's red zones.

From October 8 to October 28, this sweeping series of regulations will change the way Quebec high schools, CEGEPs, and universities operate.

From changes to the mandatory mask rules to limiting extracurricular activities, here's what students (and parents) should know about heading into the next month. 

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What's changing in Quebec schools in red zones? 

As of Thursday, wearing a mask on all school property, including outdoors and in the classroom, will be mandatory for all students attending secondary schools in red zones. This also applies to teachers and staff. 

Also beginning October 8, Secondary 4 and 5 students will move to a "hybrid schedule," meaning that students only have to physically be in class every other day. They'll learn online on the other days.

A statement from the government also says red zone schools must "revert" to stable class groups.

In school transport, there will be a one-person per bench limit whenever possible. Lunch will take place in classroom groups either in classes or in the cafeteria so long as there's "a physical distance of two meters between groups."

"Extracurricular and inter-school activities and field trips will be suspended."

"We are not happy to announce these new restrictions recommended by public health authorities," said Roberge.

"However, it is a sacrifice we must make to keep our schools open."

Can we still play sports or hang out?

"All organized leisure and sports outside the school context must be suspended," the government says.

Only in cases where students are taking sports studies or arts studies programs are separate class groups allowed to come together — and only if a two-metre distance is maintained. There will be no group activities, games or competitions.

However, "individual or duo activities, individual training in free practice, and activities with members of your family unit will remain permitted."

Any person practicing a sports activity in a duo with someone who is not part of their family bubble will have to respect the two-metre distance rule.

Finally, gyms and fitness centres are also going to close, but indoor sports facilities will remain open for practice.

"Unfortunately, we have to put organized sport and recreation on hold," said Charest.

"This situation is temporary, and I encourage all Quebecers to take advantage of the fall to get active outside, to practice sports and leisure and outdoor activities individually or with members of their family bubble."

What about universities and CEGEPs?

In the red zone, universities and CEGEPs must initiate what McCann called their "emergency protocol."

This means limiting the number of staff and students present on campus and increasing remote learning "except when the presence of the student is essential for the acquisition or assessment of knowledge." 

Internships, laboratory projects, and research activities will be maintained. Library takeout counters and individual workspaces will also remain open. 

"I know that it is a significant effort that we are asking you once again, but I am counting on the mobilization of all the actors in CEGEPs, private colleges and universities to ensure that the session continues successfully," McCann concluded.

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