Quebec plans to have kids physically back in school in the fall

The scenarios put forward include both full- and part-time schooling in the classroom. "We want to get as close as possible to normalcy," Education Minister Jean-François Roberge said.

Scenarios put forward include full- and part-time schooling in the classroom

Quebec children outside the Montreal region returned to school earlier this month. The province is hoping everyone will be able to go back in the fall. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

The Quebec government is aiming to have children physically back in school in the fall, ideally full-time.

"We want to get as close as possible to normalcy," Education Minster Jean-François Roberge said on Radio-Canada's Tout un matin Friday. 

A working document prepared by the province, and shared Thursday with education officials and opposition parties, outlined two different scenarios for elementary and high-school students.

Under the first scenario, favoured by Roberge, students would return to class full-time.

The other scenario for elementary school students would see them returning part-time, with fewer students in each class in an attempt to maintain physical-distancing rules.

Under that scenario, children would go to school twice one week and three days the next.

For high school students, it could be half the time, or even one day out of every three in a classroom.

Quebec has reopened elementary schools outside the metropolitan Montreal area.

Roberge hopeful for full-time return

Roberge said he hopes the first scenario, with full-time classes, will be the one adopted in September. 

But he acknowledged that would make it difficult to maintain physical distancing inside the classroom, and that cafeterias would most likely remain off limits. 

"I have hope it will be accepted [by public health]," he said. "The infection curves are lowering. We're taming the beast. I think there's a wave of hope right now."

He also said that school will be mandatory in the fall, and if parents choose to keep their children home, they will need to follow standard home-schooling rules.

Elementary schools in the Montreal area and high schools across the province will remain closed for the rest of the school year.

At Thursday's pandemic briefing, Premier François Legault made clear his wish to reopen schools in the fall, saying the social aspect of education was important to a child's development.

"I think that if we respect the rules, we can be hopeful that all the students who are physically ready will go to school, to CEGEP, to university, at the start of the school year in September," he said.

Heidi Yetman, the president of the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers, said she hopes any plan takes into consideration of the mental health of both staff and students, given the strain of all the measures that will be in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"I think we are going to need more resources, more psychologists, more guidance counsellors," she said, adding that there is already a shortage of teachers in the province.

With files from Jennifer Yoon

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