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What you need to know about COVID-19: August 14, 2020
A high school math teacher and his pediatrician wife are relying on their respective expertise to call on the government to rethink its return-to-school plan.
Simon Landry and Véronique Groleau have launched a petition asking Quebec to re-examine the protocol announced earlier this month.
“I’m approaching it from the health and safety viewpoint and Simon is speaking from his experience in the classroom,” said Groleau, who is a pediatric gastroenterologist at Ste-Justine Hospital.
The government is mandating a classroom structure that will see children group in bubbles with five or six students. Groleau, the doctor, said the measures are unnecessary while Landry, the teacher, said they are impractical.
“The coronavirus is different in children and in adults,” said Groleau. “We know the cases involving children aren’t as severe and in those areas where children have continued to go to school, there haven’t been any major problems.”
That raises the question of whether teachers and other adults working with the children might be at risk of contracting the virus from the youngsters, but Suzanne Vaillancourt, a pediatrician at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, described that scenario as very unlikely.
“We’re still learning about the virus and it can be transmitted from adults to children, but it’s unlikely for children pass it on to adults,” said Vaillancourt.
After talking to other doctors, child psychiatrists and development specialists, Groleau feels there are far greater problems that could arise from continued isolation.
“Children need friends and they need opportunities to develop social skills,” said Groleau. “They won’t be able to do that if they’re in a bubble all day with the same four people. We run the risk of depression and development problems. We have to let kids be kids.”
Landry’s problems centre around the practical applications of the protocol.
“The government has decided to go this route because it’s cheap,” said Landry. “But it’s unreasonable to think that a group of teenagers can be expected to spend an entire day sitting still. What happens when a boy leaves my classroom and goes across the hall and kisses his girlfriend. Am I supposed to play policeman?
“We should be approaching this with common sense. Public health measures are important but we can implement changes which allow us to follow certain guidelines which still allow the kids to have a normal school experience. It doesn’t make sense to have 1,000 kids in a cafeteria, but we could set up a series of smaller cafeterias instead of having kids eat at their desks.
“These things take planning and that’s why we’re asking the minister of education to meet with teachers, school administrators, doctors and public health officials so that we can come up with a plan that makes for a more normal school experience. But this is something that has to be done in the next two weeks because classes start in eight weeks.”
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