Staff shortages, masking concerns loom over back to school excitement

·2 min read
As students in the French Catholic School Board head back to class, staffing shortage concerns are on the minds of school board officials.  (Avanthika Anand/CBC - image credit)
As students in the French Catholic School Board head back to class, staffing shortage concerns are on the minds of school board officials. (Avanthika Anand/CBC - image credit)

Students heading back to school this month won't be required to wear masks or physically distance, but pandemic related concerns continue to loom over the French Catholic School Board, which is facing staff shortages in schools across the city.

Marc Bertrand, director of education for Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est, said isolation requirements are one of the reasons finding short-term substitute teachers hasn't been easy.

"If somebody were to contract COVID they do need to isolate for five days and so finding replacements for five days has been a challenge," he said.

Bertrand said long-term and regular positions have already been filled and the shortages aren't expected to lead to closed schools or classrooms.

But if the teacher shortages persist, Bertrand said teachers will have to be replaced with "staff that are not qualified on a day-to-day basis."

Avanthika Anand/CBC
Avanthika Anand/CBC

Masking still permitted

Despite the dropped mask mandates, Bertrand said health measures are still in place including students self-screening every morning and improved ventilation in the school.

"Masking is still permitted and we respect people's choices."

Aeri Kim said her son, a student at Jean-Robert-Gauthier elementary school, still chooses to wear a mask despite the mandate being struck down.

"I think it's a little premature considering people still need to quarantine if they get COVID," she said.

Kim added she's waiting to see if COVID will ramp up again during the school year, especially during winter.

Back to normal

Not everyone has similar concerns. For some students, the return to school has been more exciting this time around.

Samantha Perreault is a Grade 12 student at Pierre Savard high school. She said she welcomes not having to wear a mask during her graduating year, but respects the opinions of fellow classmates.

Francis Ferland/CBC
Francis Ferland/CBC

"It's your own personal choice. I think there's nothing wrong with wearing one, there's nothing wrong with not wearing one."

Maya Ziade, another Grade 12 student at Pierre Savard, said it will be "cool" to have a normal year.

Ziade added she's looking forward to finishing high school with less pandemic restrictions.

"We can have a prom, we can hang together, we can have fun and then party and enjoy ourselves for our last year," she said.