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Students, parents waiting for Quebec to outline catch-up plan for return to class after strikes end

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Students in elementary and high schools will be back in the classroom next week, but catching up may be a challenge.

Plans are being made to catch up for time lost to school strikes, including cancelling vacations or having classes on weekends. Whatever the plan is, one medical expert said she is worried that children have already fallen behind as school closures could have serious consequences on young children.

"It's scary when you look at this as a pediatrician and I know my association in Quebec is really worried about this," said Dr. Julie St-Pierre, associate professor of pediatrics in McGill University's Faculty of Medicine.

The pediatrician says no matter how many days children missed due to teacher strikes, studies show it will impact their development and learning.

"Especially in kids with learning disabilities, we expect that their capacities in especially mathematics and main language — English or French — may have decreased up to 50 per cent," she said.

Schools in the English network missed a total of eight days, while the French side missed 22 days. Just how they will catch up in order to meet ministry requirements remains uncertain.

Education Minister Bernard Drainville declined CTV News' request for an interview. In an email, a spokesperson said the minister will announce remedial measures next week.

In a post on social media, Drainville specified the plan will be announced on Jan. 9, adding that he has met with various stakeholders, including principals and parents' committees, in recent weeks to iron out the final details.

English Montreal School Board (EMSB) spokesperson Mike Cohen said he doesn't think measures like cancelling spring break are necessary, adding some schools have already found ways to make up time.

"Schools on our board, certainly the high schools, have already taken measures in terms of limiting extracurricular guests," he said Thursday.

In the meantime, St-Pierre says parents can help their children. She suggests creating a schedule to help them get ready for the return to class.

"Try to put them asleep earlier, try to put them close to the routine that they would have if they were going to school. Try to have three meals, maybe do some mathematics, gymnastics in the morning," she said.

She said it's important for parents to be supportive and not panic. After weeks off of school for some students, she said it's like a marathon — kids aren't ready to run yet so it's better to give them time to get up to speed.

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