EMSB Chair expresses concern over back to school plan
English Montreal School Board Chair Joe Ortona has expressed concern over the Quebec government’s return to school plan.
Education Minister Jean-François Roberge announced that the province won't require students in primary and secondary schools to wear masks when they are sitting at their desks. Teachers will also not have to wear masks if they can maintain the two-metre distance, and students will no longer need to stay in their classroom bubbles throughout the day. Isabelle Charest, the province's junior education minister, said sports and other activities would also be permitted, though a vaccination passport could be required in some cases.
“We have always done everything we can to ensure the safety of our students and staff and that is what we will continue to do,” said Mr. Ortona. “The decision not to require masks in classes, the removal of class bubbles, no more hybrid learning for high schools and the discontinuation of our Virtual School are troubling to us. These elements allowed us to close very few schools last year. Our COVID infection rate among students and staff was very low. Sadly, this pandemic is far from over and removing the procedures that enabled us to stay safe is perhaps not such a good thing.”
Mr. Ortona notes that the EMSB ran a very successful Virtual School last year, with 540 students and a full staff. “We are looking into what type of online learning options we can apply for students who cannot come to class due to health reasons,” he said. “Our successful Home Schooling program does continue.”
Mr. Ortona is presently reaching out to EMSB stakeholders to discuss these issues in advance of the first day of classes on August 31.
In a message to parents and staff, Mr. Ortona strongly encouraged everyone eligible to be double vaccinated. “If we are going to keep everyone safe then we must all get the two vaccines,” he said. “Hopefully soon we will get news on the approval of the vaccine for children under the age of 12.”
About the English Montreal School Board
With a youth and adult sector population of more than 35,000 students, the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) is the largest English public school board in Quebec. Established on July 1, 1998, when the province created new boards along linguistic lines, the EMSB network consists of 77 schools and centres. For more details, visit the EMSB website at www.emsb.qc.ca.