MONTREAL – Across Quebec, schools are getting ready for March break. But at least five schools in the Montreal area and one in Quebec City have had to shut down after possible cases of the variant were detected.
Some schools have chosen to stay open waiting for directives from public health worrying many parents.
Days away from the start of March break in Quebec, many elementary schools and one daycare have had to shutdown after possible cases of the variants were detected. Some schools are still saying open waiting for directives from Public Health.@CovidEcoles More at 6pm! @CityNewsMTL pic.twitter.com/Zmukymd8A7
— Melina Giubilaro (@MelinaCityNews) February 22, 2021
“The variants are present in the community and present in the schools. And extremely contagious. And parents are worried. Definitely, they are even more worried than before,” said Olivier Drouin, a parent and founder of covidecolesquebec.org.
There are currently 23 confirmed variant cases in the province and 415 presumptive cases – all of the U.K. and South African variants. Montreal has 18, there’s one in Laval and another in the Estrie region.
In Montreal, seven schools are closed for two weeks due to COVID-19. Public Health tells CityNews the closures are not all specifically because of the variant.
Grands-êtres elementary school in Saint-Laurent shut its doors until after march break because of a suspected variant case.
Collège Stanislas in Outremont, has moved both primary and secondary classes to remote learning.
Académie Yéchiva Yavné in Côte Saint-Luc closed some high school classes for a few days
Saint-Maxime high school in Laval closed some of the school’s classes until Mar. 7 because of suspected cases of the variant.
And a daycare in Montreal’s Cote-des-Neiges alerted parents to a possible case of the variant.
According to public health guidelines, if a variant strain is detected in a school, the classroom bubble is asked to quarantine for 14 days and take a second test 12 days into the quarantine before being allowed to enter the classroom again.
Parents, teachers wonder why there’s no rapid testing in schools
This has left many questioning why the Quebec government is not implementing rapid testing.
“The problem is, of course, if the guidelines keep your child at home until you get a negative test result well that can take four to five days. So, that’s obviously not easy for parents,” said Dr. Christopher Labos, an epidemiologist.
“So, rapid testing–if you can get a result the same day that’s going to make things a lot easier. It won’t be perfect, but it will be useful and allow us to at least identify the majority of positive cases get them to stay home, and limit the amount of spread in our schools.”
“If this government had been proactive, we’ve had plenty of time. Since May, QPAT has been asking the government to change the sanitary measures. Imagine we started the school year with no masks and we’re still not even there. It’s only grade five and up that are wearing masks inside the classroom. So, imagine if you have 24 kids running around with no masks one of them has the variant imagine how fast that is going to spread in that classroom,” said Heidi Yetman, president of the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (QPAT).
Robert Green, a high school teacher, says the government has failed teachers from the get-go.
“We, as teachers, we want to be with our students. We want schools to stay open. But we’ve been saying at the beginning that we want to be able to do in conditions that are safe and the government has failed miserably from the beginning,” he said.
“I feel extremely stressed. I don’t feel the government is taking the safety of education workers or of students seriously.”
Labos says every time there’s been a break from school—a long weekend, a holiday break—there’s been a small bump in cases.
“So, if people take this march break to have parties to gather in groups to do group activities. There is a very real chance that the number of cases will go up again.”