The announcement of a back-to-school “more normal” this fall for all students in Quebec has been relatively well received in the school system Tuesday.
Several questions, however, remain unanswered, and the logistical challenges are many, especially in the secondary.
The minister of Education, Jean-François Roberge, has confirmed that the new term will be full time for all students from kindergarten to the third secondary school in regular classes, then there might be teaching a hybrid for some students of fourth and fifth secondary, as reported in The Journal yesterday. At least 50% of class attendance will be compulsory.
And college and university, Québec aims to have a “teaching mode” hybrid for all”.
“Compared to what has been experienced before, it is a great great leap forward, and I expect to see increase the motivation of teachers and students”, the minister said Roberge.
Voices are raised to advocate for more resources to help struggling students, several of whom have been deprived of school for three months.
With the collaboration of Cédérick Caron and Vincent Larin
Upheaval of the schedule of the 4th and 5th secondary
In normal times, the students of fourth and fifth secondary school have access to several course options. It also happens that a student in fifth secondary school to follow a course of fourth secondary if it failed in either French or mathematics. In these circumstances, to maintain the same group of students in all subject areas often becomes impossible, ” says one.
To counter this problem, the list of optional courses could be shorter and smaller groups, which will present challenges of space and recruitment of staff, warns Nicolas Prévost, the quebec Federation of school principals education
Jean-François Roussel, director of the Polyvalente de Charlesbourg, don’t know yet whether he will be able to accommodate all of the students of 4th and 5th secondary full-time in his school next fall. “But we will work hard to get there”, lance-t-il. The schedule of the students, however, will be changed to a majority of them.
“We’re certainly going to ask them to make efforts for the selection of courses, for precautions to take. But if we compare it to the constraints it has imposed in the last few months, we have a better situation in front of us,” says Mr. Roussel.
The headache of school transport
The bus will sit one student per bench next year, which implies that schools will need twice as many buses to transport their students.
To école secondaire Soulanges, Saint-Polycarpe, the director would need 80 buses instead of the 40 that circulate in the parking lot of his establishment every day. “I don’t know too much about how we are going to do, what are the buses that transport the students of the primary school. It may be complicated,” says its director, Jean-François Drouin. The Federation of private educational institutions, we demand in Quebec to allow students to get on board with a mask, without distancing physics, such as in public transport. “It is difficult to understand why it is possible in the public transport and not in the school transport so that children are less likely to be very sick,” says its president, David Bowles.
Other profs to recruit
The return to 100% of the students could represent a puzzle in some schools, as teachers will remain home for medical reasons. According to the Fédération québécoise des directions d academic institution, at least 15% of the teachers are not back in class in the areas where the schools are open because of particular medical conditions. “You see, when the difficulties at this level, there was already a shortage,” says its president, Nicolas Prévost. Schools who would like to create smaller groups, to allow a return to 100% of all of their students, could be forced to rethink their plan because of recruitment problems, such as the école secondaire Saint-Anselme, which caters for approximately 400 students in Bellechasse. “It is clear that there is an issue of recruiting staff,” says his manager, Sabine Prevost.
To avoid that hundreds of students are not to be found in the corridors at the same time, principals are preparing to concoct rotate schedules, including for the period of the dinner. “It’s going to be a nice challenge. 1600 young people, when the bell rings between classes, it was difficult to keep two inches. But we will adapt,” says Jean-François Roussel, director of the Polyvalente de Charlesbourg, in Quebec city.
Young people could be obliged to have dinner with the students from their sub-group, says his side Jean-François Drouin, director of the école secondaire Soulanges, Saint-Polycarpe. Students will not have access to their locker and will have to get used to lugging bigger bags, he adds.
For its part, the quebec Association of senior staff of schools calls for tags more clear regarding the recess and periods of dinner. The arrival of the students and their departure might also have to be done in several waves, which could change the schedule of the beginning and end-of-course for several.
Support for students in difficulty claimed
Several actors of the network of education as well as the opposition parties are calling for more support for the return to the classroom this fall, in order to organize catching-up measures and help the students the most vulnerable.
“If the waiting lists for access to specialist services were already long, it will be necessary to attach our waterbottles from the start! To provide a service that meets the needs of students will require more resources and help than others,” said Sonia Éthier, president of the Centrale des syndicats du Québec, by issuing a press release.
The Alliance of professors and teachers of Montreal, we looked forward to more details on the measures of catch-up. “It’s missing a lot of pieces. This will not be back to almost normal. In Montreal, we have children who have almost no school work for three months. Everything it will be to catch up in September. We expected to have a plan at this level, but there is nothing that has been said on this subject, and it worries us,” says Catherine Beauvais-St-Pierre, president of the Alliance des professeures and professors from Montreal.
These criticisms are shared by the opposition parties in the national Assembly. “Back-to-school physically for all is good news, as we hoped,” said Véronique Hivon, the Parti Québécois. “But we would like the government attach so much importance to the teaching methods and the pedagogical support to the logistics, that seems to be all over the place.”