Update: On May 14, 11 days before Quebec's initial plan to reopen schools on May 25, premier François Legault announced that schools in the greater Montreal area—all its 82 municipalities—will remain closed until September. Daycares in the Montreal region will not reopen before June 1 provided favourable conditions are met.
Today (May 11) is the day when preschool and elementary schools across Quebec open their doors to accept teachers and students back into the classroom, but the question of when schools will reopen in the metropolitan area of Montreal remains unsure, as initial date for reopening sectors of Quebec announced by the provincial government have been pushed back.
In a press conference on May 11 regarding when schools will reopen in the greater Montreal area (and other topics), Quebec premier François Legault addressed questions regarding a study from the INSPQ (Institut national de santé publique du Québec) released on May 8. The study warned of a spike in fatalities from the virus by July if the original plans for reopening Montreal's schools and non-essential businesses went forward on May 25.
In response, Legault said that opening schools could be delayed until September 2020: "In Montreal, the situation is not under control. We are all worried. It is not impossible that (opening businesses) will be even pushed to later, that schools in the greater Montreal area will only open in September. We are going to be following science, we are going to be following results. We are not going to be taking any risks. If the situation is not under control in Montreal, we will delay the opening of businesses, schools and daycare centres. We are all in agreement with that, at all levels of government.”
In short, preschool and elementary schools on the island of Montreal, Laval and in surrounding suburbs were currently planned to reopen on May 25, but that was conditional on whether the outbreak remained under control in the city will schools reopen on the projected date.
"We're seeing that the conditions to keep our initial reopening calendar in Montreal are not met for the moment," premier Legault said in the May 7 conference. "And, as I've said in the last days, this will happen only if the conditions are met before May 25."
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Canada is watching closely: Children in Quebec are the first in the country to return to school during the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit Quebec harder than any other province in the country.
Why the confusion? During a press conference on April 27, the Quebec government initially announced that schools across Quebec would reopen on May 11—which they have today, with attendance being mandatory for teachers but not for students—with the exception of Montreal: The city was given the projected date of May 19, but that was pushed to May 25 following another conference. Now it's to take place in September.
As for the sustainability of reopening schools in Quebec's other 16 regions? With more than 100 deaths being reported daily by the province, some teachers are cautiously optimistic while others remain unsure. Disinfectant wipes, gloves, hand sanitizers and visors are in full effect alongside students' desks being placed two metres apart from one another and classroom sizes are being restricted to a maximum of 15 students "wherever possible", reads the government's website concerning the reopenings.
Above all, the decision on whether or not students will return to class remains with their parents. According to the same government website concerning the outbreak status of the province and its different sectors, when it comes to school, "a return to school is not compulsory. Parents who believe the best option is to have their children continue their learning from home will be provided with pedagogical support from a distance."
For the parents who choose to keep their children at home but wish to access educational resources, the government recommends the use of École Ouverte, a French-only open resource site which contains activities that are organized according to skill and grade levels.
As for higher education in high schools, colleges and universities, they won't be reopening until late August, but teachers at those levels have been since encouraged to teach remotely, sometimes with remote teaching being the only source of education moving into the fall semester. For example, McGill University announced today that "Fall 2020 courses will be offered primarily through remote delivery platforms."