Protest against prolonged school closures over the holidays

The possible closure of schools for a month during the holiday season arouses an outcry in the school network. Teachers ‘unions categorically refuse to extend the school year to the end of June while parents’ representatives say it would be “one of the worst solutions”.

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On Thursday, Prime Minister François Legault confirmed that this scenario is being studied, while the situation is deteriorating in the school network. The number of closed classes has skyrocketed in recent days, with a total of 1,214 groups of students in isolation according to the most recent tally available.

Although no decision has yet been taken, Mr. Legault raised the possibility of extending the holiday break and modifying the school calendar accordingly, in order possibly to “extend classes to at least June, maybe even July”.

Categorical refusal

However, the Autonomous Federation of Education (FAE) categorically refuses to consider this avenue. “There will be no extension of the school year. There is no question of it ”, launched its president, Sylvain Mallette.

The FAE, like the entire public sector, is currently in negotiations with Quebec for the renewal of collective agreements.

“The government is losing control, the back-to-school model it has imposed is helping to fuel the 2e vague and in addition, teachers should agree to extend the school year? It will not pass, ”added Mr. Mallette.

The Autonomous Federation of Education is calling instead for the establishment of an accelerated screening system for schools and the reduction of the number of students per class, in order to slow the spread of the virus in schools.

At the Federation of Teaching Unions, its president Josée Scalabrini wants to consult its members before making a decision, but regrets that once again, such scenarios are discussed behind closed doors, without involving the actors of the network. “It’s a lack of respect that teachers no longer accept,” she says.

“One of the worst solutions”

On the side of the Federation of Parents’ Committees of Quebec, it is considered that the closure of schools for a month would represent “one of the worst solutions”.

This scenario would risk accentuating academic delay, reducing the already fragile motivation of students and isolating even more vulnerable young people, argues its president, Kévin Roy.

“I don’t think it’s a good solution,” he says, while evoking the headache of family-work balance for parents.

School principals do not see this scenario in a positive light either. Nicolas Prévost, president of the Quebec Federation of School Managers, says everything must be done to keep students in class as much as possible without however wanting to make an official statement since the terms of such a scenario are not yet known.

No virtual classes for everyone

It would also be unrealistic to think that all students could take online classes for a week or two from home, adds Prévost. “We are not ready to switch to distance education everywhere,” he says.

In some regions, particularly those with low alert levels, orders for computer equipment have not yet been delivered. In remote areas, the Internet connection does not allow everyone to follow their teacher live on screen, he adds.

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