MONTREAL -- With unhappy parents on one side, and a government refusing to provide remote education to most of them on the other, a Montreal-area company is stepping into the void.

It’s not a company you’d usually associate with school. But Skytag, in Dollard-des-Ormeaux, does have another attribute helpful in a pandemic: lots of space.

Its facility on Brunswick Blvd. usually offers laser tag, trampolining and other high-energy games, but now it wants to offer socially distant classes using an online English-language home-schooling program designed around the Quebec curriculum.

“Sky-pods,” as the company is calling them, would each contain 10 students who are around the same grade level. The program would cost $1,100 a month.

This way, says Skytag co-owner Danielle Delanois, local parents will have “a choice.”

Provincial leaders doesn’t see it that way, with one politician calling the plan flat-out illegal and the education ministry saying it was looking into the proposal and was preparing to send a cease-and-desist notice, though it didn’t outline exactly what about it could be problematic.

But Skytag saw an opening to begin with because of the few choices available to Quebec parents in the fall.

For families nervous about sending their kids back to school during COVID-19, there’s no way to do official remote schooling unless they can get a doctor’s note proving that the child or someone else at home is especially vulnerable to the virus. Doing so isn't always easy.

For the rest, there are only two options: send the child back in person, or withdraw them entirely and do homeschooling. (That rule is currently facing a legal challenge.)

In Quebec, the pandemic provisions at schools include mandatory masks in certain areas for older children, but not many changes otherwise. A plan to separate classes into “pods” of up to six kids was abandoned. Many parents have expressed frustration in recent weeks about the safety provisions.

Skytag’s pitch is that homeschooling doesn’t necessarily need to happen at home.

“Skytag’s part is to oversee the children and to make sure they are getting physical wellness and safe socialization, and to make sure they are doing the tasks of the day and the academics and helping when there is questions,” said Delanois.

Under its plan, students would get one hour per week of instruction over Zoom with a teacher, plus daily access to what Skytag calls a “facilitator.” It’s not a tutor, Skytag says.

The lessons kids would be following are from a 20-year-old English-language resource for Quebec homeschooling families. Called the Quebec Online School, it provides support for families, including tutoring services and made-to-order lesson plans.

“We are using Google classrooms, so we will be able to track what the kids are learning and how they are learning, and parents can go in there and see what they’re doing,” said Sinead Gleeson Roy, the academic director of Quebec Online Learning.

“Then the facilitators here will be help answer questions and make sure they are logged into the right sites at the right times and all those other things.”

The Liberal education critic, Marway Rizqy, slammed the idea, saying it simply isn’t legal.

“What Skytag is doing, they are taking advantage of the fear of the parents and they offer for $1,100 a month an illegal school,” said Rizqy.

She said Skytag is not only playing on parents’ fears but marketing itself to kids by promising trampoline time and laser tag as part of the daily activities. 

“By the law in Quebec, if your kid is registered [at] school and doesn’t show up, the school has to call youth protection services,” she said. 

The Skytag plan is under review by the province, it says. Quebec’s education minister, Jean-François Roberge, said in a statement that “this property was brought to our attention by concerned parents in the last few days” and that it has asked for verifications of what it’s planning to do.

“Potential irregularities having been noted,” and a cease-and-desist notice will be sent, it said, presumably until the checks can be completed.

The statement seemed to suggest that the Skytag proposal would break provincial education law, though it didn’t lay out exactly why.

“The regulatory frameworks are there to ensure that all students have the right to a quality education, and we will not compromise on that,” said Roberge’s statement.

“There is no question that this establishment, or any other, for that matter, will welcome children if it does not respect the law.”