High school students in Montreal dreading return to class as variant cases rise
MONTREAL -- When Premier Francois Legault announced earlier this month that high school students were going back to class full-time as of Monday, he said it was a risk he was willing to take to put their mental health first, but it’s leaving some feeling uneasy.
Since classes resumed in January, about 68 per cent of all schools have reported at least once case of COVID-19 and 191 variant cases have been detected in Quebec schools.
Secondary 5 student Melissa Docherty said it’s not the senior year she had been looking forward to.
“Usually grad year, it's about the whole grade kind of coming together and having fun together, but we're really just in our tiny little bubble of about 9 people,” she said.
Instead of being excited about returning to school full-time Monday, some students are dreading it, with the the fear of cases spreading looming over their heads.
"It'll be a really big change and all of a sudden we will be adding a bunch of new people into our bubbles and we just overall don't feel really safe going back even though we'd love to see all of our friends,” said Jordan Edward Wright, a high school senior.
Wright and two of her schoolmates penned an open letter to Quebec’s education minister, Jean-François Roberge. The group is calling on the government to make in-class learning voluntary and to leave the decision-making up to the individual schools.
"The mental health of students has suffered greatly over the course of this pandemic. we have experienced drastic changes in our system of education and while the adjustment period has been long and difficult we have made it," the students wrote in the letter.
Teachers are also sounding the alarm about the return to regular classes as the number of variants of the novel coronavirus continues to rise.
Westmount High School teacher Robert Green said in times like these, students need stability and introducing another drastic change this late in the school year will only make a bad situation worse for the students.
"When the government announced this, they stated that this was being done to sort of protect the mental health of students. What I was hearing from my students is that it was this decision that was really pushing their stress out of control."
Docherty agrees, saying she was shocked when she heard the premier announce the news about students heading back to class. Students like her say with the spread of the virus variants, they fear getting infected or spreading it to their families.
“It's definitely really scary because if you're in a classroom with 30 kids and it's really hard to keep your distance, then it's definitely possible it will spread,” she said.