With petitions and lawsuit threats, Quebec parents pressure province for remote school option
MONTREAL -- The pandemic is creating what, for many families, is an untenable choice.
Take Politimi Karounis, for example. The Montreal mother can’t send her kids back to school without seriously risking one member of their family’s health.
“In our household we have someone who is considered high risk,” she explains.
Her family has been extremely careful this summer, limiting their exposure to others beyond what’s required by Quebec’s public health laws.
Sending Karounis’ kids back to the classroom, “throw caution to the wind and bank on the safety protocols that may or may not be in place” is far too risky, she says.
But the other option? To withdraw them from the public school system altogether and commit to homeschooling. That’s also not doable, and not a fair request to make of parents, she says.
“The reality is they do need that online option, they do need that livestream, so the kids can follow along and the parents can also work,” she said.
A new petition in Quebec has garnered nearly 8,000 signatures of parents who agree. They’re demanding the government accommodate families that can’t take the health risk of sending kids back to physical classes.
"I hate being asked to choose between my children's education and our well-being as a family,” says Sarah Gibson, the mother who started the petition.
“I don't believe that in Canada in 2020 we should be having to make a choice between those two [things].”
Constitutional lawyer Julius Grey agrees.
“Surely the government may open schools,” Grey told CTV. “They can open them. They can have the children [whom] parents bring. But they have to provide an exception."
He says that by forcing kids to attend class in person, the government is violating their parents’ Charter rights. He’s written a letter on behalf of Karounis and three other mothers informing the government of their intent to sue if it doesn’t provide a remote learning option.
Quebec Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge was not available for comment, but his office said he would address the concerns of parents and teachers at his press conference early next week, when he’s scheduled to unveil a more detailed back-to-school plan.
Gibson says the government shouldn't be looking at temporary fixes but at setting up a “long-term, viable solution” that allows for both in-person and remote teaching.
“The pandemic isn't going away anytime soon,” she said. “I think we may be in this position next September.”