MONTREAL -- Quebec's retired teachers are being urged to return to the classroom as the province struggles through a shortage made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge unveiled a financial incentive package designed to lure teachers who hung up their chalk back to work. Teachers who come out of retirement would be eligible for $412 per day.

“Exceptional additional measures must be taken due to the equally exceptional context of the pandemic,” Roberge said in a statement. “I want to appeal to newly retired teachers who still have the passion for the profession. More than ever, it's time to once again pick up the chalk.”

According to the education ministry, teachers that retired after July 1, 2015 who wish to return will immediately be paid the salary they were getting when they retired without affecting their pensions.

“It's obviously advantageous to add any kind of resources,” said Michael Murray of the Eastern Townships School Board. “We are certainly concerned about the shortage of teachers.”

In Quebec, 117 classes are still without a full-time teacher, a slight improvement over this time last year. But Heidi Yetman of the Montreal Teachers Association said the pandemic has stretched things to the limit.

“Teachers on the ground are exhausted already, we're only three weeks into this and I'm really afraid this is not sustainable,” she said.

Murray said one concern is that many retired teachers are older and therefore at a higher risk of complications from COVID-19.

“I personally spoke to a number of teachers over the summer who had recently retired and the last thing they would consider would be a return to the classroom,” he said.