Montreal students with disabilities return to 'their second home' after nearly 3 months

Esi Mardini dropped her 12-year-old son off at school in Montreal on Monday for the first time since it closed on March 13.

"He's been looking forward to coming back to school for a while now," she said. "We are all excited about that."

While most schools in the Montreal area remain closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, students with disabilities were allowed to return on Monday. Adult education and vocational programs were also allowed to reopen with public health safety measures in place.

For Mardini's son, that means returning to the Mackay Centre and Philip E. Layton schools in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce — a facility for students with disabilities that opened in 2018.

Mardini said she's no longer thinking about the risks of COVID-19 as she is more interested in her son, who is in Grade 6, experiencing the traditional rite of passage that all kids go through.

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"I'm thinking of a kid and how he wants to see his friends," she said. "I want him to do it the right way that all of us did it. You know, come to school, finish, graduate and go to high school."

Her son attends the only school of its kind to offer specialized educational and rehabilitative services in English, serving students from all of Quebec's English-language school boards.

EMSB says school ready to welcome students Cohen

English Montreal School Board (EMSB) spokesperson Mike Cohen told CBC News that teachers and classrooms were well prepped for reopening day at Mackay

"I walked around the classrooms that will be used," Cohen said of the Mackay Centre.

"They have all been readjusted. They are going to limit it to about six students per classroom there. Hopefully, it's going to be a regular learning day for these students who really need this opportunity."

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He said it "touches you to see" kids return to "their second home" after being away for such a long time.

Cohen said the board is reopening about six EMSB schools this week and the list of those schools will soon be on the board's website. 

Adult education centres will also be opening to give students a chance to complete their exams, he said. Vocational programs that cannot be offered online are also resuming.