Your questions answered about going back to school in Quebec

Quebec is opening up elementary schools and daycares again next month after shutting in March. Here's a look at how it will work.

Here's a closer look at the plan, from physical distancing in the classroom to staggered breaks

Kids in daycare and elementary schools will be heading back to class as of May 11. What's that going to look like? 2:37

Quebec is opening up elementary schools and daycares again next month after shutting in March. 

The decision has prompted anxiety and indecision among parents, and forced school boards to quickly adapt to a new reality. 

Here are some of your key questions, answered, about how it will work.

When exactly do schools and daycares reopen?

Elementary schools and daycares will gradually reopen starting on May 11 outside the greater Montreal region — though class sizes will be limited.

On the island of Montreal, in Laval and surrounding suburbs, the daycares and elementary schools will open May 19. Premier François Legault has said the timeline will only roll out as planned if hospitalizations from COVID-19 remain the same or continue to decrease.

What about high schools?

All other schools — high schools, colleges and universities — won't physically reopen until late August. Roberge said high school students are more independent and are in a better position to finish their school year through distance learning.

"A teenager who is at home must continue their schooling, and their parents must accompany them in that," Education Minister Jean-François Roberge said. 

Do I have to send my kid back?

No, the return to school is optional, but the school should be informed a week in advance.

Children with underlying medical conditions should stay home. Teachers over 60 will also not work in the classroom.

What are the rules for classrooms?

Classes will be limited to a maximum of 15 students, and the two-metre distancing rule will have to be respected wherever possible. That may mean moving some classes into vacant high schools for the time being to ensure there is enough space.

What new measures will there be for school buses?

On school buses, the rule will be one child per bench seat. The bus driver will also be protected by a Plexiglass shield. 

What about recess and lunch?

Schools will have to limit travel within the school, minimize times when groups travel at the same time and use staggered schedules.

According to Education Ministry guidelines, they will use one room for classes, lunch and daycare. They will take turns using the schoolyard. Students must wash their hands regularly and avoid physical contact with each other.

Will students or teachers be required to wear masks?

No, it won't be compulsory. School guidelines will be based on the public health guidelines of their respective region.

What is the rationale for opening now?

The decision to begin loosening coronavirus restrictions by reopening elementary schools was made, in part, because the risk of younger children developing complications from COVID-19 is very low, according to Legault.

He also said keeping schools closed for months at a time posed considerable risk to the well-being of some children, especially those with learning difficulties. The opening is being carried out in conjunction with the restart of the economy.

What happens if there is a confirmed case in a school?

As soon as a case is confirmed, the public health authority in the region concerned will assess the situation and issue appropriate instructions.

The student or staff member will be prohibited from being on the school premises for a period of 14 days. Pedagogical support will be provided to the student during this period.

Will my children still have access to learning material if they stay home?

The ministry says pedagogical support will be provided by teachers to all of their students, including those who do not return to the classroom. Those students will be provided with schoolwork by their teachers, who will also carry out a weekly follow-up with them.

How does Quebec compare with other provinces?

New Brunswick, which announced a four-step COVID-19 recovery plan last week, will maintain home learning, opting to close schools for the rest of the school year.

Saskatchewan also outlined a detailed plan last week, but schools weren't mentioned and are unlikely to open soon. In Ontario, public schools will remain closed in the province through May 31.

Still got questions? There are more details on the Education Ministry website. You can also share your questions with CBC Montreal here and we'll try to add it to this story.

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