No more virtual school for students vulnerable to COVID-19

The Ministry of Education is ending the virtual education that has been offered for two years to hundreds of students who are vulnerable to contamination with the COVID-19 virus. Quebec relies on the end of the state of emergency to justify the return to the classroom of all elementary and middle school students, even those with chronic illness or whose immune systems are weakened.

This decision was communicated to the school service centers last week by the Deputy Minister of Education, Alain Sans Cartier. The directive repeals a ministerial decree of May 2022 that, among other things, instructed schools to teach remotely to students whose “health condition or that of a person they are staying with puts them at risk of serious complications if they contract the virus.” . ”. To be eligible for virtual education, a doctor’s paper was required.

The Ministry of Education considers it in the best interest of children to go back to school, our sources say. Students come not only to learn, but also to socialize. In some cases, the school is also a social safety net that can detect children in a difficult home situation.

If I were the parent of a vulnerable child, I would be concerned. I should be reassured.

This obligation to return to the classroom remains unknown in the school network – the start of the school year will take place in the coming days – but concerns the Federation of Parents’ Committees of Quebec (FCPQ), which is seeking clarification from the Ministry of Education.

“If I were the parent of a vulnerable child, I would be concerned. I need reassurance,” said Kévin Roy, president of the FCPQ. Parents may wonder why two-year distance education was appropriate for children vulnerable to COVID-19, but class attendance is now becoming mandatory, he says.

Protective measures

Kévin Roy states that the guidelines around the virtual school are “unclear”. He advocates policies that would regulate distance education by considering the pros and cons for all students. He would have been reassured if Public Health had recommended ending virtual education for students vulnerable to COVID-19.

When asked about this, the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MSSS) told the Task that Public Health had not issued any specific advice on the end of distance learning. Robert Maranda, spokesperson for the MSSS, referred us to a guidelines page for “persons with chronic illness or with a weakened immune system, including children, as well as their loved ones”.

These vulnerable people “should ensure at all times that they respect basic health instructions; minimize contact; avoid public places; otherwise wear a mask or face covering,” says the MSSS.

Regardless of age, additional protective measures may be needed for workers with chronic illness or weakened immune systems. For example, promoting remote working from home or strictly applying preventive measures specific to certain workplaces when teleworking is impossible,” adds the Ministry of Health.

exempt personnel

Students must return to class, but school staff may still be exempted from attending school for medical reasons confirmed by a doctor.

“It is up to the school service centers to determine the terms and conditions applicable to personnel vulnerable to COVID-19, in accordance with the current recommendations of the Direction générale de santé publique, the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ ) and the Commission for Standards, Equity, Health and Safety at Work (CNESST),” said Bryan St-Louis, spokesperson for the Department of Education.

The INSPQ describes the health problems that make people vulnerable to infection with the COVID-19 virus (chronic kidney, cardiovascular, and respiratory disease; liver, kidney, heart, or lung transplants; cancer; and many others).

“It is important to emphasize that this notice is intended as a reference tool to support physicians in assessing an individual’s vulnerability to SARS-CoV-2 and the additional protective measures recommended in the workplace. The opinion of the treating physician about the vulnerability of the patient therefore remains essential and should take precedence,” according to the INSPQ.

Another change from last school year: the measure that provided for the closure of a class if 60% of the students were positive for COVID-19 has been abolished. In the network, we are waiting for details on everything related to class closures and how to monitor the learning of isolated students in case of infection.

Other criteria for the virtual

The Ministry of Education explains that virtual school will remain possible for some students, but only as part of a pilot project that will run from September 2021 to June 2024. This type of distance learning is not intended for students exempted for medical reasons, but rather for children .” that do not fit into the usual form” of the school.

According to the latest news, 3,500 students took part in this project, which is part of the government’s digital action plan Legault. Parents must demonstrate that the virtual school is the best solution for their children due to a range of circumstances: bullying, severe anxiety, behavioral or learning disabilities, autism, giftedness, distance from major centers or participation in sports study or art study programs are regularly absent from the class.

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