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Quebec parents feel helpless about province’s back-to-school plan

Last Updated Aug 13, 2020 at 10:54 am EDT

MONTREAL (CITYNEWS) – Some Quebec parents say the provincial government has let them down when it comes to limited back-to-school options for their children.

Parents across the province are feeling helpless about the government’s plan to send kids back to school during the COVID-19 pandemic. They say they have no choice but to comply with the province’s decision, even if they feel their children are at risk.

“There’s a really big cross-section of families that do have flexibility and are saying, ‘please trust me to manage my child at home and give me remote learning options,’” said parent Sarah Gibson. “And then there are the people saying, ‘I don’t have a choice and I’m terrified.’”

Under Quebec’s new back-to-school plan, kids in Grade 5 and beyond will have to wear masks in common areas but not in classrooms.

“You have 30 kids in a room, expand each of those children’s bubbles out and imagine exponentially how drastically we’re expanding our bubble.”

Gibson started a petition asking the Quebec government for safer in school policies, the option to keep kids home for remote learning while remaining enrolled in school and an injection of resources by the government so these options are achieved. The petition has so far amassed 22,000 signatures from parents.

She is also part of a group of parents that has launched legal action against the Quebec government. She contends a stay-at-home option will mean fewer students in school and smaller gatherings – a safer option for everyone involved.

“There may be things that can be done in the schools to maximize the space, to improve the ventilation,” said Gibson. “It may be time that we band together and try to make those improvements ourselves at the school level.”

 

RELATED: Parents, teachers press Quebec to revise back-to-school plan amid COVID-19

 

A community organizer in Montreal says some parents he works with simply wouldn’t have the flexibility to keep their kids at home – even if the government presented that as an option.

“A lot of these parents and families that rely on their jobs don’t have the privilege to telework,” said Mostafa Henaway of the Immigrant Worker Center. “Most immigrant workers were working in essential jobs that didn’t allow them the luxury to work from home.”

Henaway works with immigrant families in Cote-Des-Neiges, one of the areas in Montreal hardest hit by the pandemic with more than 2,000 cases and 250 deaths. He worries the province’s back-to-school plan will lead to more outbreaks within vulnerable communities and workplaces.

“The more that these kids are back in school, the more susceptible people are to catching the virus again,” he said. “Because there are no real strict measures that are being enforced by employers or public health.”

Henaway says the government should explore more out-of-the-box options when it comes to sending kids back to school.

“Why aren’t we expanding the libraries also into classrooms and hiring extra teachers so we can really be in small groups of 10-15 people? Why aren’t we extending CERB to allow working people to be able to stay at home with their kids?”