If all goes to plan, students will be back in classrooms in less than a month, but some parents say they still have very little information about how the new school year will unfold.
Assunta Iasenzaniro, whose three children will be attending English Montreal School Board (EMSB) schools in the fall, says she expected to have more information by now.
The EMSB told parents Monday evening in a virtual meeting they will be able to find out the details about schools reopening, like schedules for recess and lunches and protocols for lockers, about a week before school doors open.
"I think a lot of the parents seemed frustrated. They were expecting to get concrete answers," said Iasenzaniro.
She said she is nervous about her kids going back to school because she is asthmatic. She wants more information about health checks, school buses and bubbles — subgroups of students — where physical distancing rules are more relaxed.
"Every situation we asked, was like, 'We'll handle that when we get there," she said.
Antonio Zaruso, whose daughter Eva will start grade four, also attended the virtual meeting.
"With regards to real action plans, for me, [it was] a let down, or fail," Zaruso said. "We don't have any real definite answers, or real situations."
Board needs more time
The EMSB says while it understands parents' frustration, it is asking for more time to figure out how the fall term will work.
"They have to be a little more patient because we are on vacation mode right now," said spokesperson Mike Cohen.
"People, the hours they have put in during the pandemic have been extraordinary, our in-school administrators never had a day off," Cohen said.
Evelyne Alfonsi, assistant director general of the EMSB, said safety protocols like daily health checks and physical distancing will be maintained. Teachers will ask their students if anyone has symptoms but they will not be checking temperatures.
"We are doing everything possible to make sure that your children will be safe when attending school," Alfonsi told parents at the meeting.
As announced by the government last month, students in preschool up to Grade 9 will be back at their schools. Classes will respect the regular, pre-pandemic ratios, but there will be subgroups of up to six students who will not have to respect the usual two-metre physical-distancing rule.
Children in the subgroups, or "bubbles," will have to stay one metre away from one another, and all students will have to stay two metres away from adults. The students will have an assigned classroom, and the teachers will come to them.
For Grade 10 and 11 students, there are two options — they will either follow the same protocol as their younger peers, or they will attend school one day out of two.
They would have online classes and take-home work to do on the days they aren't physically at school.
Plans in case of second wave
The EMSB's Alfonsi said the board has come up with an emergency plan that would allow it to quickly transition to virtual learning in case schools are ordered to shut down again.
"We will certainly be more ready than in the spring or in March when all of this first happened," said Alfonsi.
The plan includes special training for teachers to ensure they are set up for remote teaching. The board is also preparing to lend laptops and tablets to students, and set up internet connections for those who do not currently have access.
Alfonsi said the plan also includes protocols for students picking up their school books and materials.