Government reconsiders decision on masks
After Minister Jean-François Roberge repeatedly said that the Ministry of Education would not provide masks to elementary teachers returning to class on May 11, he had to backtrack following the outcry over the decision, particularly among general directorates, school boards, unions and school administrations.
“There is a series of measures that have led public health to assess that it was not necessary in any way to recommend the wearing of masks, and therefore to provide them,” Minister Roberge said during a virtual working session of the National Assembly devoted exclusively to schools’ deconfinement plan, on April 30. “This is not a decision that was made because of a shortage problem,” he assured. “It is not a logistical decision. It’s a public health decision.”
The fact that the Ministry of Education does not recommend the wearing of masks or other protective equipment drew protests across some unions in the network, including the Fédération autonome de l’enseignement (FAE). The FAE had already pointed out that it was “unthinkable” for its members to return to work without protection. “From the outset, I will be very clear: no teacher will be returning to the classroom without protective equipment,” said Sylvain Mallette, president of the Federation.
The Legault government wanted to reassure and alleviate the concerns of staff in preparation for the return to class in Quebec’s elementary schools. “The government will be able to provide masks to teachers who request them,” said Horacio Arruda, National Director of Public Health of Quebec, at the daily press briefing on May 4. Premier Legault, who was present at the briefing, indicated that his government had heard the concerns of school personnel. “Some teachers are very worried and would like to wear a face covering,” he explained. “Public health doesn’t think it’s necessary, but it can’t hurt. So we’re going to allow teachers who want to wear a face covering to do so.” For Mr Legault, “The important thing is that everyone feels comfortable with this reopening.”
Having said that, the Premier understands that going back to school scares many families. “I think it’s safe, but there’s anxiety in society right now, and I understand that some parents are uncomfortable sending their children back to school,” he said, reminding the public that going back to school was optional. [Local Journalism Initiative]