• Stuart Benson

‘We’re prepared’: WQSB chair says to parents


All masked up, Noam Krongold is met by staff at Chelsea Elementary on his first day back Sept. 1. Aden Seaton photo

Board hopes to reassure parents over back-to-school during COVID-19


By Stuart Benson


Thousands of students from across the province returned to school Aug. 27, with thousands more returning Sept. 1, and many students, parents and staff are anxious for what is to come amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.


Alain Guy, Western Quebec School Board chair, said he has heard concerns from parents, especially that the province may be moving “too fast” compared to other provinces.


“We want to assure parents we have taken all of the preparatory actions to get ready for the return to school,” Guy explained. “To a certain degree, our spring exercise in reopening when the government asked us to in May has given us an edge on other provinces with regard to what to expect.”


Guy added that he remains cautious about appearing “overconfident,” but he does believe the short reopening in the spring provided valuable insight into what schools would need in the fall.


“My administrators are telling me that they feel they are in a much better position to understand what is needed,” Guy stressed. “Our staff have done amazing work and communication has been outstanding if we can give ourselves a pat on the back.”


Guy admits that both parents and teachers still have questions and concerns, but believes that those are healthy and valuable at this stage.


“I'm sure there will be re-adjustments as we return to school,” Guy explained. “Parents and students are staying well informed and so are we.”


Students can expect temperature checks at the entrance to their school, sanitizer dispensers in the hallways and on desks, as well as stickers and signs on the floors and walls to help ensure they keep their physical distance.


Mike Dubeau, WQSB director-general, added that the source of anxiety from many parents he has spoken to and received emails from is the fact that, in comparison to Ontario for instance, parents have much less of a choice in the return-to-school plan.


“In the minister's plan, parents don't really have a choice unless they have a medical exemption or they do homeschool,” Dubeau explained, adding that the number of students opting for homeschooling has more than doubled from less than 70 last year to more than 140 this year.


“I've spoken to and received emails from a number of parents and there is a general concern and worry about having our schools open,” Dubeau said. “I understand that.”


Dubeau said the board is working with public health officials to ensure all of their protocols are up-to-date and in place in order to provide a safe environment for their students.


“Of course, this pandemic is unpredictable and we are all concerned,” Dubeau cautioned. “[B]ut the safety and health of our students and staff is our top priority.”


Dubeau also explained that staff and teachers who are vulnerable would have the option to be re-assigned to work at the ‘virtual school’ the board will be implementing for the more than 100 students who will need to receive virtual education due to medical exemptions.


“We're all concerned, but I can tell you, we're prepared,” Dubeau affirmed. “We're going to be proactive to ensure everyone's safety and welcome students back as best as we can.”


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