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Face masks become mandatory at all times in Quebec’s ‘red zone’ high-schools

Education minister ratchets up the pressure, as COVID-19 Wave II begins

The Quebec government announced on Monday additional protective measures for schools, sports facilities and teams in the province’s “red” zones – including Laval – which will be in place beginning Oct. 8 until at least Oct. 28.

Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge.

Beginning Thursday, wearing a face mask becomes mandatory at all times for students attending high-schools located in the red zones, including inside classrooms and outdoor areas.

Protection for students

“Today we are announcing an important reinforcement of the existing sanitary measures, as well as the deployment of additional measures, for school establishments located in red zones,” said Education Minister Jean-François Roberge.

“All these measures are a way of protecting our students and personnel against COVID. We are far from happy to have to announce these new restrictions recommended by the public health authorities. All the same, it is a sacrifice that we must make in order to keep our schools open.

“We can and we must get out of this,” Roberge added, pleading for the public’s cooperation. “I implore the citizens in the zones in question and all over Quebec to follow the directives and to limit their social contacts as much as possible. Our children deserve that we double up our efforts.”

Changes in the rules

Up until now, students were required to wear a mask when walking in indoor common spaces, such as hallways, and while on school buses. But, since school began again earlier this fall, health officials had noticed it seemed harder for students to respect “class bubbles” when out in the schoolyard.

In recent months, the government had been criticized for not making masks mandatory inside classrooms. According to the new rules, two-metre distancing and face mask rules will have to be respected during optional classes, or else the classes will be offered remotely if students aren’t all from the same class-group.

‘I implore the citizens in the zones in question and all over Quebec to follow the directives,’ says Education Minister Jean-François Roberge

Wearing face masks also becomes mandatory for school staff in common areas, as well as teachers’ rest lounges, and on the outside grounds if a two-metre distance can’t be maintained. According to a statement issued by the government, the government will be assuming all costs for protective masks.

In order to limit students forming groups that are too large, schools in red zones will have to maintain a single class-group at all times. Extracurricular and inter-school activities, as well as all outings, are cancelled until further notice.

New ‘hybrid’ learning

No organized sports or leisure activities will be allowed. Courses taking place in groups and organized sports practices are cancelled. However individual activities, one-on-one coaching and activities practiced with members of one family unit are allowed.

Those practicing a sport one-on-one or as a duo will have to maintain the two-metre distancing protocol. Those involved in sports-studies or arts-studies programs will be allowed to continue, says the government.

To limit social contacts in schools, secondary 4 and 5 students will be attending school using a “hybrid” method: some days they will attend classes, on others they will learn remotely. The government says that on average, students will be in class at school one day out of two.

Some additional measures

In accordance with recommendations made by provincial public health officials, the following supplementary measures will also be in effect in red zones:

  • On school transport, there will only one student per bench;
  • An increase in protective measures and distancing in staff rooms;
  • Noon-time meals to be taken in class or in the cafeteria, in the class-group unit with two-metre distancing between groups.
  • Increase in disinfection with additional janitor services.