Quebec’s English boards say they will not open colleges till they know it is protected

English elementary schools in Quebec won’t be reopening until they know it’s safe for students and staff.

Following Premier François Legault’s announcement to reopen schools as early as May 11, Quebec’s English School Boards Association (QESBA) announced its opposition to the plan on Friday, citing health concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason.

“As of April 30, there are still far too many unknowns that compromise the ability of school boards to safely and effectively reopen schools,” said QESBA president Dan Lamoureux in a press release on the association’s website.

He added that measures to keep both staff and students safe in schools will vary from institution to institution, and “may not even be possible in some areas.”

During his daily press briefing on Thursday, Legault said he won’t hesitate to push back the province’s reopening if people don’t continue to respect public health orders.

QESBA represents nine English school boards and 100,000 students at 340 schools of different levels across the province. Lamoureux said the school boards want to remind the government that they have “legal and constitutional authority to control and manage our minority language school system.”

The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) announced on Friday that it supports QESBA’s decision, also citing the health and safety of students and staff as their concern. Schools on the island of Montreal are set to open a week after the rest of the province, on May 19.

“As such, we will continue to work towards the reopening of our elementary schools,” reads EMSB’s press release. “But will take the time needed to analyze our situation to ensure proper planning.”

In the meantime, the EMSB is suggesting for elementary and high school teachers alike to work with their students virtually, from home.

“No school will be reopened until we are absolutely certain that proper safety conditions are in place,” EMSB said.

In the past three weeks, a petition calling on the Quebec government to keep children out of schools until at least September has received over 280,000 signatures.

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