Quebec sets new rules for COVID-19 back-to-school

Masks to be mandatory for grade five up, but not in classrooms

Elementary school students in Quebec from the fifth grade up will be required to wear protective face masks, although they will be allowed to take them off in classrooms, Education Minister Jean-François Roberge announced on Monday.

In addition to the senior elementary school students, the mask requirement will also apply to high-schoolers, as well as older students enrolled in vocational or adult training programs, in hallways and while walking around commons areas in schools.

Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge.

The announcement came after parents, teachers and others questioned the CAQ government for what many complained was a lack of clarity on COVID-19 and back-to-school, as well as concerns that the initial guidelines for protection against the virus didn’t go far enough.

Schools must reopen

“Leaving the school closed would not be protecting children,” Roberge said during a joint news conference held on Monday with Health Minister Christian Dubé and public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda.

“It’s crucial to reopen our schools not only for our children, but also for our adolescents. They need to get back to learning and seeing their teachers.”

‘I know there are many parents who are looking upon the back-to-school with a certain amount of apprehension,’ SAID Education Minister Jean-François Roberge

Under the new guidelines, all parents and school staff will have to be notified as soon as a student tests positive for COVID-19. An infected student will then have to be isolated at home before being readmitted at the school. Students in isolation will be expected to continue working from home.

The role of parents

As well, any student who has symptoms while in school will be removed by a member of the staff who will be wearing protective gear. Parents will be required to ensure that children at home who show symptoms remain isolated and that public health officials are contacted for followup.

“I know there are many parents who are looking upon the back-to-school with a certain amount of apprehension,” said Roberge, who is himself a parent, while maintaining that new measures should provide some reassurance.