UPDATED on 05/12/2020 at 12:17 p.m.

In Québec, Monday, May 11 was the first day of school for the second time this school year.

Classes in elementary schools outside the Montréal region resumed after being cancelled in mid-March due to COVID-19.

The return to class is part of the government of Premier François Legault’s plan to gradually re-open Québec.  However, parents were not obligated to send their children back to school if they are not comfortable doing so.

Public high schools, the CÉGEP junior college system, and universities in Québec will remain closed until September.

Grenville Elementary School Laurentian Elementary School in Lachute re-opened on May 11.  The Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board announced several measures to protect students and staff.

For example, classroom capacity is limited to 15 students, if space permits, and each child has  a six foot/two metre “personal space” area around them that teachers or other assistants may only enter if the student has specific, special needs.  Students will use the same room for classes and lunch, and recess times are staggered throughout the day without access to playground equipment.

Physical education, art, drama, and music classes are cancelled for the rest of the school year and non-essential common areas such as gymnasiums, libraries, and laboratories will be closed off.  Hand washing will be frequent and compulsory for students and staff.

“Much easier than expected,” was how one teacher described the first day back at school on social media to The Review.

“The kids understand the need to stay two metres away from each other,” she said.

Reaction from parents to the optional return to school has been mixed.

“They need to go back to a somewhat normal life,” said one parent.

Obtaining the basic knowledge needed to move onto the next grade level was the main reason the Québec government decided to partially re-open the public education system.  Students who do not return to school will continue to receive the online lesson material that schools, and teachers have been providing in recent weeks.

That objective was not enough to convince one parent that going back to school was a good idea.

“I live in Québec and I have two close family relatives who teach in Québec.  I wouldn’t send my kids to school and they wouldn’t either,” she said.

However, one other parent said children are minimal spreaders of COVID-19 and teachers over the age of 60 or who have chronic health conditions do not have to teach. “We have to get going or September will be just the same,” she said. .

Classes will also be resuming on May 11 at École Dansereau-St-Martin in Grenville and elementary schools in Lachute operated by the Commission scolaire de la Rivière-du-Nord school board.  It is also following the same infection control procedures that have been established by the Québec government and are being followed by the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board.

“The situation we are in demands great sense of adaptation and our staff team has adapted very quickly,” said Commission scolaire de la Rivière-du-Nord Communications Counsellor Nadyne Brochu.

As for objections expressed by English-language school authorities in Québec to the return to classes, Brochu’s only comment was that Rivière-du-Nord staff are working hard as a team to ensure students have a learning environment in the best conditions possible.

For complete information, in English on COVID-19 health and safety procedures in schools in Québec, go to https://www.quebec.ca/en/health/health-issues/a-z/2019-coronavirus/answers-questions-coronavirus-covid19/questions-answers-education-families-covid-19/ and https://www.quebec.ca/en/education/preschool-elementary-and-secondary-schools/etablissements-scolaires-prescolaires-primaires-et-secondaires-dans-le-contexte-de-la-covid-19/safety-measures-for-workers-and-children-in-elementary-schools-and-daycare-services-during-covid-19/