MONTREAL -- As CEGEP students wrap up their winter semesters, some are concerned about attending in-person exams as highly contagious COVID-19 variants continue to spread through Quebec.

With several in-person exams already scheduled, some are calling on the province to step in.

"I want to know why schools are being given the discretion to make these decisions and why the Quebec government hasn't intervened to prevent on-campus exams," said Miriam Hotter, a student at Marianopolis College.

The province says it’s in talks with the education ministry, but it’s unclear if there are any plans to halt in-person exams for now.

"There are going to be exams," said Quebec’s Public Health Director, Dr. Horacio Arruda, during a Thursday press conference.

Exams "could be done in different ways, probably," he said, “but this is still in discussion” with the ministry of education.

In-person exams allow school staff to better monitor students during their tests to prevent cheating.

What’s more, some degrees require hands-on knowledge, which can be difficult to test from a distance.

At Dawson College, most students won’t need to go to campus to do their tests, except in classes where "there is a need for an in-person evaluation due to either the practical nature of the assessment or a proven high risk of cheating."

"Dawson College is in frequent contact with the Direction régional de santé publique (DRSP),” wrote a spokesperson for the college in a statement to CTV News.

"The DRSP does not object to holding exams on site so long as health and safety protocols are followed and students do not congregate before or after exams," they wrote, adding that the school will employ staff to keep people from gathering.

"Students will have to leave Dawson as soon as they are finished an exam."


Meanwhile, Dawson students are feeling uneasy.

Kevin Contant-Holowatyj, chairperson for the Dawson Student Union, said the union surveyed more than 4,000 students, 88 per cent of which said they were against the idea of in-person exams.

"So, it’s pretty resounding ‘no’ for in-person exams," he said.

He said he feels the school is going over the students’ heads, ignoring calls to let them stay home.

"The college knew that students were against this and they chose to move forward, disregarding the opinion of students," said Contant-Holowatyj. “It’s honestly very frustrating."

He launched a petition to pause in-person exams and said the risk is still too high for students to safely gather for their tests. The added pandemic stress will hurt their performance, he added.

"That’s a question I’d ask to the college: why not listen to us?" he said. "It’s entirely up to the college to make the decision, they have to listen to students."