Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday April 30, 2020
School boards grapple with how to make Quebec’s ‘improvised’ back-to-school plan work
School board administrators across Quebec have two to three weeks to figure out how to organize bus transportation, classroom layouts and recess protocols, after the provincial government decided it would be the first in the country to reopen public schools.
Premier François Legault announced Monday that elementary schools in most regions of Quebec will reopen May 11, while those in the greater Montreal region, where there are far more cases of COVID-19, would have an extra week to get ready for a May 19 start date.
The chair of the Eastern Townships School Board, Michael Murray, said there are still many unknowns, including how he’ll manage to get his students to school in the first place, with 80 per cent of the student body relying on bus transportation.
Physical-distancing rules mean only one student per bench, so buses can carry just a fraction of the students they usually do.
“Typically our buses run pretty full, so we would need four times the number of buses in order to transport students,” said Murray.
Education Minister Jean-François Roberge said Tuesday while bus transportation will be “a challenge”, he said there will be more room because high-school students will be staying home.
“I think we will be able to manage it,” Roberge said. Among the measures the government is suggesting is putting up plexiglass between drivers and the students as added protection, especially for drivers over the age of 60.
The chair of the Central Quebec School Board, Stephen Burke, doesn’t think it will be that easy to solve the transportation issues.
He said his school board covers a third of the province’s territory — from Quebec City to Shawinigan to La Tuque — and 90 per cent of students take the bus.
“Those are issues that I don’t believe the minister or the government has really understood — nor what it means to reopen a school board such as ours,” Burke said. (CBC)