The Montreal School Board will create a virtual school for vulnerable students

The Quebec government has announced it is ending online learning for students vulnerable to complications from COVID-19, but that’s not stopping one school board from moving forward with a virtual option.

In a statement, the Ministry of Education said that since the province ended its state of health emergency in March, the measures taken to ensure distance learning also ended with the 2021 school year. -22.

“From now on, it is only through the development and implementation of a pilot project authorized by the ministry that educational institutions will be able to offer distance education services as part of the general education of young people. “, indicates the press release.

The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) has already announced that it will throw its hat in the ring. The board plans to work with the ministry to open a full-time virtual school for English-speaking students.

“At the moment, there are no COVID protocols that exist [in the schools]”said Mike Cohen, spokesman for the board of directors.

“We are very happy to have had the opportunity to make virtual school available for those who really need it.”

It is not known which students are eligible

Katherine Korakis, president of the Association of English Parents’ Committees of Quebec, said school was starting in a week and parents had been left in the dark about the province’s plans.

“I think there is a lack of clarity about what the government is proposing,” she said.

EMSB spokesman Mike Cohen says everything is in place to ensure children are safe as they return to Mackay Center and Philip E. Layton Schools. (Radio Canada)

Korakis said parents fear their children, who fall into the immunocompromised category or live with someone who is, could suddenly return to school despite the risk.

It is not known which of these children will be eligible for the EMSB virtual school. Cohen said the ministry will decide who can enroll, although he said it should be available to English-speaking students across the province, from kindergarten to grade 11.

Details should arrive in the coming days and eligible families will be able to register soon after, he said.

Marie-France Raynault, senior strategic medical adviser for Quebec public health, told a press conference Wednesday that pediatricians and oncologists are comfortable sending children back to class.

“They saw that those who went to school did very well and didn’t have as many complications as they had initially expected,” she said.

“Most immunocompromised children can go to school. These are the discussions I had with the specialists.”

Homeschooling remains an option, lawyer says

Gina Picone is a homeschooled parent on the Quebec Association for Homeschooling Board of Directors. If the distance learning option isn’t available, she said, some parents may want to turn to home schooling.

She said her organization has grown from a few hundred members to a few thousand during the pandemic, and remains available for parents who want to turn to homeschooling rather than sending their children back to school.

Homeschooling is different from distance learning, she added, because parents are responsible for managing the program. It can be overwhelming at first, Picone said, but his organization is ready to help.

“It’s a viable option,” she said. “It can be done.”

Perry A. Thomasson