Excitement and uncertainty on the eve of the start of

Excitement and uncertainty on the eve of the start of the school year | sector strikes in Quebec –

Quebec teachers are returning to work, in some cases after more than a month of work stoppages. Union members returned to schools Monday when an education day was scheduled on the calendar. Students will be back in class on Tuesday.

The return to school in winter has a special character this year in that classes ended in the autumn semester while 40% of teachers, represented by the FAE, were on strike and the others, defended by the FSE-CSQ, with an indefinite strike There was a threat of a general strike at short notice.

However, basic agreements were made during the holidays. Although they have not yet been approved by members, they particularly convinced the FAE, which had been on an indefinite general strike since November 23, to end it.

Classes can therefore resume as planned in all primary and secondary schools in Quebec this week.

To prevent students from paying the price for this labor dispute, Education Minister Bernard Drainville has already announced that the ministerial tests will be postponed until the end of January and beginning of February. A catch-up plan must also be submitted on Tuesday.

Fears are great, especially because the strikes have led to inequalities between students. Those affected by the FAE strike missed around five weeks of classes, while those affected by the Common Front strike involving the FSE-CSQ only missed around ten days.

A month of school is a lot, especially for the most vulnerable students who have difficulties and learning delays, estimates Line Laplante, special education teacher and research chair in fundamental learning in literacy. UQAM.

When these students are out of school for a period of time, they lose their ability to learn much more than all students in general, so it's really going to be particularly challenging for these young people, he said. – she pleaded on Monday afternoon in an interview with ICI RDI.

Asked about the same issue, Montreal Association of School Directors (AMDES) president Kathleen Legault, for her part, explained that she would have preferred Minister Drainville's catch-up plan for Education Day to be ready from Monday.

The lack of details of this plan leads to many questions and the school administrators receiving the staff this morning have no answers, she complained, setting off a mixture of fever […] full of worry and uncertainty on the eve of the start of the school year on Tuesday.

We may not be able to catch up with all delays by the end of the year. So we can't wait to see what the Minister will tell us tomorrow.

The consequences of strikes will vary from region to region. […] but also from one school to another, Ms Legault also argued that each institution should have its own plan.

The same applies to the Quebec Association of School Management Personnel (AQPDE). “We don't want wall-to-wall measures: we really want them to be adapted to each environment, in our schools, in our centers,” argued its president Carl Ouellet.

For his part, at a press conference to present the priorities of the CSQ in 2024 on Monday morning, the president of the headquarters, Éric Gingras, assessed that it would be possible to make adjustments to the school calendar without having to shorten the break week or extend the courses in June.

Like school leaders, Mr. Gingras urged the Drainville minister to show flexibility in developing his catch-up plan as the situation varies from school to school.

However, the fact that the document had not yet been published did not seem to bother him too much. “We've seen it with COVID and sometimes these plans always come at the last minute,” he stressed. So it's a film we've already appeared in.

Eric Gingras at a press conference.

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During a press conference marking the start of the January school year in Montreal on Monday, Mr. Gingras recalled that there are always days planned for snowstorms, ice storms and other unpredictability during the school year.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Ivanoh Demers

Still, the school calendar could be thrown into disarray again in 2024 if union members reject policy agreements made by their representatives over the holidays.

The associations affiliated to the Common Front, which have received increases of 17.4% from the government in five years, will vote from January 15 to February 19, while the FAE, which represents Montreal teachers in particular, has only announced that meetings will be held after the holiday break.

We hope it goes well, but […] “We are not at all sure about the outcome,” Kathleen Legault admitted Monday. The expectations of people who have spent 22 days outside […] are very high, and if they are not satisfied with the agreement, they will not hesitate to vote against it, she warned.

The start of the school year on Tuesday will also be special in that students will no longer be able to bring their cell phones to class. This ban, introduced by Minister Drainville last summer, came into force on December 31st and applies to both primary and secondary schools in the public sector.

With information from Colin Côté-Paulette