No bubbles or masks in class when students return from Quebec this fall
Quebec will not require elementary and secondary school students to wear masks once they are seated at their desks this fall.
Teachers will also not be required to wear masks if they can maintain the two-meter distance. The province will also no longer maintain bubbles in classrooms.
Education Minister Jean-François Roberge made the announcement on Wednesday outlining his back-to-school plan as the province faces the start of a fourth wave of COVID-19.
At a press conference, Roberge said the high vaccination rate among 12 to 17 year olds allowed restrictions to be relaxed.
Currently, 82 percent of adolescents in this age group have received one dose of the vaccine and 48 percent have received both. Roberge said he expects at least 77% to be fully immunized by the time school resumes.
But he said the increased presence of the more contagious delta variant has led the province to maintain mask requirements in common areas, although he said in June that they would not be needed in the fall. .
Isabelle Charest, the province’s young education minister, said sports and other activities would also be allowed, although a vaccination passport may be required in some cases.
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The revised measures will also apply to students under the age of 12, who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated.
Dr. Yves Jalbert, deputy director of public health protection in Quebec, recognized that there are risks in allowing more interactions between students.
“We have to walk a narrow road between allowing students to return to a normal way of life and fighting this pandemic,” he said.
“This is the position we have at the moment on the class bubbles. We will see what happens and we are monitoring the situation very closely.”
Roberge also addressed concerns about ventilation in classrooms, a controversy that has led to legal action teachers’ associations.
Last year, the Quebec Ministry of Education promised to have CO2 detectors in every classroom by the start of the school year, but later revised his goal say he would have them installed by the end of fall 2021.
In a technical briefing this morning, officials said the province will install 90,000 detectors in all classrooms across the province from September through December.
Radio-Canada reported Wednesday that Quebec did not publish its call for tenders until mid-July. Accepted offers will roll out over the next four months.
Teachers will learn to assess air quality in classrooms and the province will take action if necessary, officials said.
Despite criticism of his handling of the problem, Roberge said on Wednesday that Quebec was ahead of other provinces in testing and ensuring air quality in schools.