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COVID-19 And Schools: Quebec Is Making A Huge Mistake

Updated on April 30, 2020
Christina St-Jean profile image

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, and LGBT advocacy.

Quebec Elementary Schools Set To Re-Open May 11


Could Quebec Be Making A Terrible Mistake?

While I'm a high school teacher now, when I began my teaching career in 1994, my first job was as an elementary school teacher in Cold Lake, Alberta. I didn't really think much of it at the time, as my teaching certificate said I was qualified to teach students from kindergarten to Grade 12.

What I didn't quite realize at the time was that elementary schools feel like germ factories when you first start working there. I'm pretty sure that I had a cold or a sore throat almost incessantly for about six months. I love little kids, but I still remember the constant drag I felt with having some sort of mild stuffy nose all the time for half the year until my immune system got used to life in an elementary school.

So it was with that in mind that I read with some trepidation that Quebec was planning on opening elementary schools, albeit on a voluntary basis, beginning May 11.

Don't get me wrong - I am absolutely eager to return to my classroom, and I would love to see my students and colleagues on the daily again. However, in the midst of this COVID-19 crisis, I understand that any return to school is a while off in coming yet. I feel for my former students who are part of the class of 2020, as they will not have a traditional prom with their friends and their graduation ceremony itself questionable at least in the traditional sense. Students at every age of the school system are missing their classrooms, they're missing their friends and they're missing the routine, as odd as that might sound. I know that people are hungry to get back into something resembling the routine that they had before the COVID-19 crisis, but we do understand that a premature return to school would be one of the worst things that could happen.

I get that parents want to see their kids return to a routine, and I get that the government - whether it be provincial or federal - wants to re-open the economy and part of that is ensuring that kids are either in daycare or in school so their parents can work. After all, adults need routine as well, and part of that is simply ensuring that their children are looked after while they are at work.

However, Quebec has been one of the hardest hit provinces throughout the COVID-19 crisis, and while many might argue that many of the province's cases are from cases in long-term care facilities, the fact of the matter is the number of cases in Quebec is still pretty much the highest in Canada. We don't fully understand how the virus affects children, although we do understand that young kids typically don't always remember to cough into their elbows, and they don't always remember to appropriately blow their noses; this means that kids have a high potential for shuttling germs back and forth and to their homes and everywhere else in between.

That leads to a very high probability that Quebec could see an uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases in short order following the re-opening of schools.

Granted, parents may decide that they don't want to send their children, and this re-opening of schools does not affect high school students, but the fact of the matter is there is a significant risk that teachers and students are facing with elementary schools re-opening in Quebec. This is a slightly different risk than other provinces such as Saskatchewan, which has a couple of hundred COVID-19 cases, because Quebec has nearly 27,000 cases and represents just over half of Canada's caseload. Just by virtue of the numbers, there's a greater risk.

While I am usually one of the last people to keep my kids home if they have just a cold, even I would be reluctant to send my youngest daughter, who is in Grade 5, back to school right now. While she's really responsible about ensuring she uses her elbow to sneeze into and washing her hands and all that, not everyone else is, and that, in turn, would put her at risk. While I live in Ontario and therefore as of right now a return to school is not an issue just yet, the fact that the Quebec government is already making moves to send kids - even some kids - back within the next couple of weeks makes me very wary.

I just hope that this is a decision that the Quebec government won't later come to regret.


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