No masks for students, for now: Quebec says it's sticking to its plan
Ontario's back-to-school plan requires masks to be worn all day in Grades 4 to 12
Quebec's education ministry says it isn't currently planning to follow Ontario's lead and make masks mandatory in school for older students.
Ontario's back-to-school plan, announced Thursday, has elementary students returning to school full-time, and requires students in Grades 4 to 12 to wear masks all day.
In a statement sent Friday, Quebec's education ministry said the fall school plan it unveiled in June — which does not require students to wear face coverings — remains the plan.
"As the overall epidemiological situation in Quebec has improved, the physical presence of students at school is compulsory for the start of the school year next September with the authorization of the public health department and health measures put in place," the statement says.
The Quebec plan does require face coverings for preschool teachers, special-needs teachers and vocational training teachers, as well as for staff during certain situations that require close contact.
The education ministry notes that the pandemic situation is evolving, and that the public health department may "adapt current recommendations if necessary."
Heidi Yetman, the president of the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers, which represents 8,000 English-language teachers, said she expects Quebec's plan to change before the school year begins.
Yetman said a directive for older students to wear masks while travelling, moving around in school hallways and in situations where a number of students are gathered together would likely be supported by teachers and parents.
"I don't think masks would be a problem at the high school level," Yetman said. "If they're distanced enough in the classroom, they could remove their masks once they're sitting at their desks. So it wouldn't be a constant 8 hours a day of mask wearing."
Planning too far in advance wasn't 'realistic'
Kirkland couple Sarah Gibson and Johanne Cadorette, who have two sons going into Grades 7 and 10, think the directives should be updated, but worry the government will be too rigid.
"The idea of announcing the plan in June and not revising it isn't realistic," Cadorette said. "By announcing it in June, they've locked themselves into a position."
Gibson said she and Cadorette are unhappy with the province's decision to make in-person attendance mandatory, especially because the plan came out so early.
"There's too many things changing, even the body of knowledge about this virus is changing by the day," Gibson said.
In Ontario, parents will have the option of keeping their children out of in-person classes.
With files from Sarah Leavitt
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