Quebec education minister hesitates to force students to wear life jackets on school outings, hails a 'decent' school year
MONTREAL -- Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge has no plans at this time to require students to wear a life jacket on school outings.
Roberge was in Quebec City on Tuesday, where a 10-year-old boy recently drowned while on an outing with his class at the Base de plein air de Sainte-Foy.
According to various accounts, Daniel Allo had was struggling in the water, and lifeguards and bystanders tried to reach him. He was found in the lake by a citizen and resuscitation manoeuvres were performed, without success.
Reacting to the tragedy, Roberge said that he could "hardly imagine what the family, the relatives and the school team are feeling. My heart goes out to the parents and all the people who have been affected," he said.
However, he said it was "too early" to send a directive to the education system to make it mandatory to wear a flotation jacket when going to the pool or the lake.
"I will wait for the (coroner's) report. I wouldn't want to issue a national directive that might not be appropriate," he said. "I'll let people do the investigation or the analysis, and then we'll see if we need to give national guidelines, but I think it's too early at this point."
A 'PERFECTLY DECENT' SCHOOL YEAR
Roberge was at Campanile School on Tuesday to announce three school expansion projects. He also took the opportunity to review the last school year.
The minister said that although the school year was "completely atypical" it was quite good.
He added that he understood the "great fatigue" of the school staff and thanked them for their dedication.
"Under the circumstances, it has been a decent school year. I can't say it was a good school year when there were cases, outbreaks, worries, anxiety, but it was a good one," he said.
The 2020-2021 year has been marked by several class closures, serious disagreement over COVID-19 outbreaks, learning delays and an increase in mental health problems among young people.
Asked if he would have done anything differently, Roberge said he would have liked to have been able to better compile COVID-19 cases in the system at the beginning of the year.
"There was something there to correct," he acknowledged, without elaborating.
"I look at what has happened in our neighbouring countries, and, very often, people ask us: What is the secret of our success? How did we manage to keep our schools open? There is a pride in the network. That's what people remember."
-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on June 22, 2021.