Teachers have questions and concerns about returning to Quebec classrooms
MONTREAL -- Quebec’s teachers are getting ready to head back to classrooms, some as early as next week, and some are asking why?
As of Monday, many elementary school teachers will be back at work, and English Montreal School Board educators are required to return on May 4 to prep for students expected back in two weeks.
“It feels like we’re going into a generalized daycare or a day camp, so parents can go back to work,” said Bancroft Elementary School teacher Francois Lukawe.
Many of his colleagues agree that re-opening schools isn’t about education, but about freeing up working parents.
“I think one of the important factors in the decision-making here has been getting younger students back into school and into daycare so their parents can actually return to work so that the economy can be opened up,” said Jewish General Hospital president and CEO Lawrence Rosenberg.
Premier Francois Legault said the move was primarily for the 25 per cent of Quebec students with learning disabilities.
“If you go to September, it would be six months of not going back to school,” he said. “I think it wouldn’t be good for children having difficulties.”
Some teachers aren’t buying the line.
“Having spoken to the parents of special needs students, a lot of them aren’t planning on sending their children back because they’re not ready,” said Shigawake Port-Daniel Elementary teacher Gillian O’Rourke-Garrett. “They’ve struggled to understand social distancing, their children aren’t ready to understand, ‘Hey. I can go to school, but I can’t do anything else.’”
“It doesn't rest easy with me, because as a teacher we are supposed to put the safety and security of our students first,” said MacLean Memorial School teacher Annabel Busby.
Education minister Jean-Francois Roberge sent a letter to parents saying physical distancing must be respected on school property including recess when classes return. Bus service will also be reduced and common areas like cafeterias and libraries will be closed.
Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has questions.
“I’d want to know what the school was planning on doing, whether the desks were going to be properly spaced, whether there would be plans at recess in terms of keeping people separated,” he said.
Teachers also know they’ll have trouble adjusting how they relate to young students.
“I'm going to feel the need to sort of pat a student on the back and say ‘I’m so happy to see you again, but you’re going to have to keep this distance,’” said Busby. “It's going to be difficult.”
The confusion about how it will work has left many unsure of what to do.
“Within the family it’s going to be a super personal decision,” said Caroline Phaneuf, the chair of the English Montreal School Board’s Parents’ Committee. “I’ve heard of cases where the husband and wife don't agree what to do, so I think there could be some heated discussions at home as well.”
“I just wasn’t comfortable with my kids being the guinea pigs, of sending them for a couple of weeks, to ‘let’s see how this plays out,’” said Kristy Paoletti, a parent in Sainte-Julie.