Teachers, parents want more details on proposed summer school for children with learning challenges

"This government keeps throwing us curve balls, and we're trying to figure out what to do," said Heidi Yetman, president of Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers.

'This government keeps throwing us curve balls, and we're trying to figure out what to do': QPAT president

Elementary school students in Kazabazua, in the Gatineau region, went back to school on May 12, with extra space to comply with COVID-19 physical-distancing measures. Quebec is now considering adding a three-week summer school for children of all ages who have learning challenges. (Letha Henry)

The Quebec government is considering setting up a catch-up summer school for struggling students — but teachers are scrambling to find out what that would actually look like, while some parents say they'd be reluctant to send their children.

A spokesperson for Education Minister Jean-François Roberge said the camps would be offered to students of all levels in the greater Montreal area and Joliette, and to high school students in other regions.

The camps, which would run three weeks, could start later this month, and participation would be optional, said Francis Bouchard. 

Two people employed by the English Montreal School Board told CBC News they were asked to be ready to open schools next Monday, although an EMSB spokesperson said the board is still in talks with unions, principals and parents.

The idea is drawing criticism from some teachers and parents.

"This government keeps throwing us curve balls, and we're trying to figure out what to do," said Heidi Yetman, the president of the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers, which represents 8,000 English-language teachers.

Yetman said while the union would be open to having teachers come in and give extra help to students, the way the province has tried to implement plans has been disorganized and unclear.

"We hear about it through email or through the media, and then we all run around trying to figure out what it is," said Yetman.

Teachers also already have enough on their hands as they are still teaching remotely, full time, Yetman said.

"We should be concentrating on how we're going to reopen in the fall and getting the school teams together to sit down and really work it out," said Yetman.

George Hiotis, seen here with his sons Yanni, left, and Michael, says he will not be sending Michael, who has a borderline learning disability, back to school this summer. (Submitted by George Hiotis)

'Let the regular kids go back first' 

George Hiotis, whose 17-year-old son Michael has a borderline learning disability, said he received a call Tuesday from his son's school asking if Michael would want to return next week. 

"[Michael] gave me a little cute smirk and said, 'Let the regular kids go back first,'" said Hiotis.

"If they can assure all the parents that nothing will go wrong, that they will take all the precautions to guarantee the safety of each and every child, I would gladly send Michael back," said Hiotis.

But as it stands, Hiotis said, he has no confidence that necessary measures to ensure students' safety will be in place by next week, so he doesn't plan on sending his son back.

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