MONTREAL (CITYNEWS) – Quebec, the province with the most COVID-19 cases in Canada is the first province in the country to reopen schools.
Elementary schools across province, outside the greater Montreal region, started reopening Monday for the first time since mid-March.
“It’s like the first day of school with new rules and we need to show them those new rules and make it so that they’re as happy as possible so they can learn” said Melanie Primeau, the Principal at Howick Elementary School, just 44 kilometers southwest of Montreal.
Some parents say their children have been eager to return to school.
“She misses her friends, she misses routine. It’s a fun school,” Kair Ness said, a parent of two elementary students.
Another parent shared a similar sentiment.
“He’s an only child at home so he was anxious to come back,” Melanie Marcil said.
Other parents dropping off their kids are showing their concerns and are saying it’s important to adjust to the new normal.
“We are worried, but I think we’d be more worried in the fall when it’s a bigger change for them, they’d have been off school for six months,” Stephen Moore said.
It’s been nearly two months since students have been at schools and they are now entering a school that looks a little different from when they left it.
Staff may wear masks if they choose, a bell will ring every two hours to remind students and staff to wash their hands, arrows on the ground will guide and distance the students and much smaller classrooms put in place to respect the two-metre-rule.
“We’ve tried as much as possible to keep the ratios as low as possible so they can have desk work but also do a morning circle, respecting the distance so they’re not always sitting,” Primeau explained.
“We’re lucky enough at our board to be able to get with about a 1:10 ratio opposed to the 1:15 ratio. In our valley schools it could be more challenging, certainly for schools in the city with larger populations,” explained Rob Buttars, Director General of New Frontiers School Board.
Elementary schools in and around Montreal are expected to reopen on May 25, if the COVID-19 situation remains stable.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault says that date can be pushed back if necessary.
Parents can choose to keep their kids at home.
“The Quebec Public Health Authorities are I’m sure monitoring this extremely closely to see what the initial school opening would be like from a COVID-19 perspective. But as we just talked about mental health and other aspects of secondary effects, they’re also monitoring that side of things too, not just illness,” Dr. Theresa Tam said, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada.
“We’ll work at getting a routine going and keeping the learning going. What I saw here today with the children showing up at school, you could see on their faces they were happy to be here,” Buttars said.
High schools, CEGEPs and universities will remain closed until the fall in order not to crowd public transit systems.