Together, let’s get ready for a return to school in the fall

12 June 2020

We feel an urgent need to react to Tuesday’s publication of the Conseil supérieur’s report on the well-being of children in our schools. The report confirms that schools play an essential role in a child’s development, especially the most vulnerable children. We have a collective duty to take better care of these students, with clear, concrete, and above all, sufficient means and measures.

Together, we represent close to 100,000 education workers. 100,000 committed people whose daily lives are spent in the field, in schools and centers. So, we can safely say that our members have an exceptional level of expertise when it comes to students. An expertise not sufficiently taken into account in Minister of Education Jean-François Roberge’s plan to implement his various scenarios for the launch of the 2020 school year.

Admittedly, he has made some effort to consult most stakeholders in the past few months, but unfortunately he fails to engage in follow-up to cross-check details and ensure overall understanding after measures have been announced. Several rabbits have had to be pulled out of hats as a consequence because the minister is not bothering to field-test announcements that could have been better handled. Educational camps and tablets, paid for by school budgets but never received, are two obvious examples.

Genuine collaboration with people on the ground would allow the Minister to validate his ideas and take into account the realities and issues that will be encountered. This would prevent vague directives that will subsequently need to be fixed. It is therefore imperative that the next school year proceed without confusion. This will require clear guidelines for all of us, concrete objectives, and defined limits of flexibility. Yes, this represents quite a challenge, Minister, but you will be the one to benefit from our expertise. You must decide whether to use it.

And so, on the eve of the announcements concerning the resumption of school in the fall, we need to reiterate the compulsory aspects of school attendance, regardless of which scenario is chosen.

Many vulnerable students disappeared from our radar screens during the confinement, and this is extremely worrisome. In some cases, it was because the parents were working or did not have the conditions or skills required to support their children in distance learning. In other cases, it was because the students themselves were working or had simply vanished for lack of motivation. The reasons are varied, but the consequences for many students will be major and real.

With the announcement of their choice of reopening scenario, we are asking the government to make the required investments to ensure priority for so-called vulnerable students. At the moment, school service centers are justifying resource cuts due to costs incurred by the pandemic. This is completely unacceptable.

By the time school resumes in the fall, some students will have been absent for more than 6 months, while others will have resumed classes in a very specific context. Learning and behavioral difficulties will be exacerbated, and we will need to be given the means to support these young people, to promote their development and minimize the risk of dropping out. Serious steps must be taken in this direction. Let’s start by defining together who these vulnerable students are to give us a common understanding of this term so widely used during this crisis. Their needs must be taken into account, recognized, evaluated and respected, based on the expertise of those in the field, that is to say education staff.

If this health crisis has once again exposed the fragility and major shortcomings of the education system that we have been struggling to maintain for so many years, we are convinced that we can get it back on its feet by working together and prioritizing the well-being of students.

Josée Scalabrini
President of the Fédération des syndicats de l’enseignement (FSE-CSQ)

Éric Pronovost
Daycare educator
President of the Fédération du personnel de soutien scolaire (FPSS-CSQ)

Jacques Landry
President of the Fédération des professionnelles et professionnels de l’éducation du Québec (FPPE-CSQ)