MONTREAL, – The Quebec Professional Association of Teacher (APEQ-QPAT) was stunned and very concerned to hear the government’s announcement, in the current context, that all students at the elementary school, high school, vocational and adult education level will be returning to classrooms as early as Monday, 17 January.
In a letter sent earlier this week to government authorities, the APEQ-QPAT expressed serious reservations about a premature return to class in the context of a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases linked to the Omicron variant across communities, without the epidemiological situation being stabilized and sufficient measures in place to ensure the protection of school staff, students and their parents.
Although the APEQ-QPAT recognizes that the transition to online education is far from ideal for both families and students’ learning and psychological health, it is concerned that a return to class under the current conditions, without additional safeguards, risks jeopardizing the health and safety of students and staff, leading to multiple service failures and causing further instability for our students and their families.
Unlike in Ontario, the Government of Quebec has not yet implemented any practical measures to ensure air quality in all schools, including the installation of mobile air purification units or air exchangers in classrooms without mechanical ventilation. In addition, the APEQ-QPAT believes that new case management protocols in schools established by public health authorities may contribute to making our schools the main hubs of COVID-19 spread in communities, thereby putting the health of front-line teachers, their students and their families at risk.
“In a context of staff shortages, this decision, far from valuing education employees, risks demobilizing them and accelerating their departure. The burden is once again placed on school staff. This is cause for great concern.” – Heidi Yetman, APEQ-QPAT President
In light of this latest development, the APEQ-QPAT reiterates its request to the Legault government to:
- Make N95 masks available to all teachers
- Install mobile HEPA air filters or air exchangers in all classes without mechanical ventilation as soon as possible
- Provide sufficient rapid screening tests to all school staff
- Review COVID-19 case management protocols for clarity, safety and consistency in their application
- Quickly assess the situation in our schools and reconsider the decision to bring all students back to classrooms