COVID-19 : why it is necessary to re-open schools now
Department of didactics, UQAM
School of management sciences, UQAM
Education and specialized training, UQAM
UNESCO chair in curriculum development, UQAM
Department of didactics, UQAM
THE SCIENCE IN HIS WORDS / The government of Québec, like many educational systems, presented on April 27 its plan for the next reopening of primary schools.
In his press briefing, the prime minister, François Legault, has listed five reasons that justify the reopening of schools. From our point of view, the argument presented was awkward and not very convincing for parents who are concerned about the health of their children. Stating that the situation is “under control in the hospitals,” the government has implied that the opening of the schools is likely to lead to hospitalizations.
Later, during the press conference presenting the details of the reopening, minister Jean‑François Roberge spoke very briefly a few considerations that justify the return to school.
However, in the context where the parents will soon have to inform the school board of their decision to return, or not, their children to school, it appears to us necessary to insist on the fundamental reasons why it is necessary that the Quebec reopens in may next, of its primary schools.
Not a matter of immunity
First, this is not to create a herd immunity. Even if this idea seems to have been removed from the governmental discourse, it is crucial to remember the fact that it is still a mere hypothesis. For the moment, the OMSrappelle we don’t know if the people who have had the Covid-19 will be immune and for how long. Research on the immunity generated by an actual exposure to the virus is in its infancy. Many uncertainties still remain.
It is pertinent to mention that the epidemiological data that are present suggest that the children would be less likely to be infected by the virus than adults ; they would also be potentially less affected by the disease and receive less of the virus. These researches tend to show that a re-opening of primary schools could be safe.
In addition, the data of other epidemics suggests that transmission in schools plays only a minor role. Also, some studies have estimated that the transmission in the classroom was low.
Vigilance is required
That being said, even if these preliminary findings are reassuring, many uncertainties remain. Moreover, the latest position of the national Institute of public health of Quebec (INSPQ), which reiterates the importance of social distancing, contributes to the debate. It will therefore be necessary to maintain vigilance in ensuring the epidemiological surveillance and follow up rigorous in the first few weeks of returning to class.
Then, recall that the quebec school is characterized by its three-fold mission : to educate, socialize and qualify. Although the mission qualification has been temporarily set aside, the missions of instruction and socialization remain essential.
The school is not a babysitting service. It allows children and teenagers to build themselves as individuals socialized. After a confinement of several weeks, it appears essential to enable young people to rebuild their social relations. In addition, a return to the classroom is relevant to ensure a certain consolidation of skills and knowledge judged to be minimal.
Protect the most vulnerable
In addition, the school plays a role of protection for the children. It is essential to ensure their well-being. Some indicators, such as the substantial decline in reporting to the Directorate of youth protection (DYP), are worrying.
Then, the important support offered in schools suggests that thousands of children do not eat currently not in their hunger. In addition, students with special needs or who are disabled will no longer have access to services and treatments normally provided in schools.