High school students need to be back in class, Quebec education minister tells English boards

Quebec’s education minister is ordering English-language school boards in the Montreal area to return to full-time in-person learning for all high school students despite concerns over the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jean-François Roberge told reporters Wednesday that the province has contacted school officials after some of them opted to keep a hybrid model of in-school and digital education for students in senior grades.

“The government sent them a letter yesterday afternoon, and we were pretty clear that each kid has the right to go to school every day,” he said Wednesday.

Some school boards have taken a staggered approach to the government’s decision to allow teenagers in Grades 9, 10 and 11 in designated pandemic red zones to physically attend class.

READ MORE: Opposition grows to Quebec’s return to class in pandemic red zones

Both the English Montreal and the Lester B. Pearson school boards have welcomed students back to class in a systematic manner. Only students in Grade 9 (secondary 3) are back at their desks for all five days at both boards.

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The Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board, meanwhile, has returned to a mixed learning model for senior students in six schools, citing safety concerns for staff and children.

Prior to the change, students in senior grades were alternating between digital and in-person learning as part of public health measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The government’s plan has not only prompted concern from administrators and teachers, but students as well.

On Tuesday, students at Westmount High School held a protest. They argue full-capacity classrooms pose “a serious danger” to their health and those in their immediate family.

Click to play video: 'Quebec staring down the third COVID-19 wave'

Quebec staring down the third COVID-19 wave

Quebec staring down the third COVID-19 wave

Roberge said that he understands their trepidations, but that the decision wasn’t made lightly.

“I can understand that some parents, some teachers, some students, they have some fear, they have some anxiety. I think it’s normal because we are not in a normal situation, of course,” he said.

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“But it’s really important to say that decisions are not taken easily. We made our decisions after discussions with our specialists, and we have to follow the guidelines of the national health authorities.”

with files from Global News’ Brayden Jagger Haines

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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