Quebec government provides a lose-lose option for parents, teachers and students
Published Sunday, January 17, 2021 1:26PM EST
A physical distancing sticker is seen at the entrance of a classroom at the Marie-Claire Academy in Montreal, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
MONTREAL -- Nearly one year into this pandemic and we are at it again: sending children back into the classroom during a lockdown while society debates whether this is the right decision.
There will be no winner in this discussion, and the ideal solution will likely never be known.
What is becoming clear, however, is how the Legault government undermines our teachers and education system, places parents into a double bind (lose-lose situation) and wreaks havoc on the mental health of Quebecers caught in the crossfire between public health and public education.
With the medical system pushed to the breaking point, and decisions about who gets critical care on the brink of becoming a tragic reality, Quebec is under a province-wide curfew, along with the closure of all non-essential businesses, limitations on what can be purchased, and restrictions on all gatherings.
Although the ship is rapidly sinking, and all hands-on are needed on deck in the hopes of controlling the deluge, the CAQ continues to endorse the delusion that sending millions of kids into over-crowded classrooms is of little concern.
Are parents and teachers expected to accept that from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. we must not leave our homes, yet come sunrise, our children are safe to head off to school, displaying, as Legault says, “a big smile to see their teacher.”
Someone please pinch me to be sure I’m not dreaming.
As our families found out in the fall, those “happy” faces quickly melt away when a classroom bubble is suddenly shut down due to a reported positive COVID-19 case.
Entire households are plunged into turmoil as tests are administered, quarantine is put into place, and the 14-day waiting game begins.
I can assure you that there are no smiles when attempting to isolate a child in their own home, keeping them separated from their parents and siblings, as the family waits to learn if they might be next on the virus’ target list.
Because our government has provided no option to families who must send their children to class regardless of legitimate concerns.
Understandably, not everyone is able or willing to have their children distant learning from home full-time and there are many reasons why some kids do need to remain physically in school.
Yet, there are also numerous families who are ready and longing to transition to online schooling, if only they were given the option.
Yet a hybrid system, like the one which was offered in Ontario, continues to elude Quebecers.
It has become blatantly apparent that the government’s trust, respect, and support for teachers and the education system in this province is lacking.
Time and again, throughout this pandemic, the CAQ has undermined teachers, keeping them in the dark until the very last minute, treating them like puppets on a string rather than professionals who could be providing experience and expertise essential to the choices being made.
Many of the decisions, such as the recent puzzling claim that air filters are not useful in classrooms, easily translate as a pretext for avoiding investment in schools and education.
As a parent, I am exasperated by the excuses our government has fed us for months about keeping schools open.
Our family has diligently followed all the public health recommendations, doing everything in our power to keep ourselves, our friends, and our senior family members safe.
Yet each day we must send all children off to school, knowing that despite our best efforts, there is this one wild card over which we have no control as it is in the hands of the government who insists they are using it to keep our children happy and healthy.
Thankfully, curfew provides us time for reflection, as we try to make sense of this nonsense.
Susan Mintzberg, PhD candidate, McGill University School of Social Work