We know that this message is reaching most of you in your homes, where you’re struggling to maintain a semblance of normal life while remaining safe. As we face the extraordinary challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, we want to remind you that École Socrates-Démosthène (our principals, teachers, educators and support staff), and the Hellenic Community of Greater Montreal remain by your side, and are fully committed to providing educational and administrative services from a distance to our families to the best of our ability in this new reality.
As you all know, the Ministry of Education (MÉES) has ordered schools across Quebec closed until at least the 1st of May because of COVID-19. All Socrates-Démosthène campuses will remain closed during this time as our administrators and faculty are required to work from home. Meanwhile, Premier Francois Legault announced last week that he will be presenting a very gradual reopening plan for the province in the coming days and this will probably include schools.
The Premier has talked about herd immunity that could include the participation of schools, daycare services, summer camps and even sports activities for children. The gradual return to school has also received a major endorsement by Quebec’s Pediatricians Association which stated in a press release that it isn’t just welcome, but necessary. Calling the past six weeks, during which schools have been closed, “surreal” and “life-changing,” the association said “the option of postponing the resumption of school life further is difficult to defend,” especially given the widespread belief that COVID-19 will be a part of our lives for a long time to come.”
Thousands of children have found themselves at home, far from infection, of course, but also deprived of everything that constitutes the very essence of childhood,” the association said. “In the absence of the social safety net represented by daycare centers and schools, with the decrease in primary care, it is clear that the collateral damage from prolonged confinement is already vast and worrying.” The association says the return “will have to be gradual and careful. The grandparents of these children remain extremely vulnerable, as do the older school and daycare staff.” The association added that it trusts Quebec public-health to properly and safely implement a back-to-school plan.
In reference to the above, the MÉES has stated that any return to class will be optional for students. The Ministry is very conscious that a possible return to school raises a lot of questions. Many elements need to be addressed including the respect of physical distancing and other health measures, a re-opening calendar, scheduling, students to be prioritized, transport, what will happen with Montreal and Laval, etc. A hybrid type teaching system might also be proposed, that is basically the combination of traditional in-house and distance teaching. As we await details on a reopening plan, our School’s top priority will remain the health and safety of our students and their families.
On the subject of school fees, we realize that many of our parents have questions and preoccupations. Credits and reimbursements will be offered for certain services but the MÉES has recommended schools wait until the end of the school year before addressing this in order to have the complete portrait of the situation.
Taking into consideration these unprecedented circumstances, most special activities and outings have been cancelled until the rest of the school year. That now includes our June Graduation Gala since public health restrictions of big gatherings will still be in effect. We realize though that a student’s graduation from primary school only comes once in a life-time, therefore, we are currently looking at other options for our graduates and our decisions will have to be based on safety concerns.
As for the educational trips to Greece, we have decided to postpone the high school trip until next year, but unfortunately we have no choice but to cancel the one for our grade six students because of the travel restrictions in place and that Greece hotels will remain in lockdown until the end of June. We had a record 38 students committed for this trip. We hope they will have other voyage opportunities in future.
As for the school uniform for next year, fitting trials have been cancelled. Our new supplier, Maison d’Uniformes Lemira, is preparing on-line ordering forms that will be available soon.
In addition to the incredible efforts our teachers are making to educate your children from a distance, the MÉES has introduced additional tools that could also supplement these efforts. They include:
– The École ouverte website, created by the MÉES, where you can choose from thousands of resources to learn, create and have fun with your children.
– The trousses pédagogiques (educational kits) consist of a menu of fun learning activities allowing students to maintain their skills by school level (preschool, elementary and secondary). They will be personalized by Faculty before being transmitted to you.
– Télé-Québec en classe offers original contents to students from prekindergarten to high school on television and on the Web.
Furthermore, our School and our students, led by our Greek teachers, will be taking part in the International Student Painting Competition: “Near or far, WE are all ONE”, as will thousands of children from around the globe confined to their homes because of the COVID-19 situation.
Socrates-Démosthène remains part of the radio show Ta Molivia Ston Aera on Mike FM 105.1. Thanks to an incredible collaborative effort by HCGM officials, our Greek teachers, our students, their families and Mike FM, every Wednesday from 12:00-1:00 pm, we can all witness and hear first-hand what makes our School, and particularly our students, so special.
For now, Faculty has been instructed to use every possible tool at their disposal to educate and communicate. Please keep in mind that no evaluations will be conducted during the school closure. Our School encourages all its students, with the help of their parents, to follow along to the best of their capacity and capability.
Should schools not reopen this year, our students’ final evaluation will be based on the first two completed terms. All ministerial exams have been cancelled for this year. MÉES has made it clear that there is no possibility of extending the school year. Every campus has been completely disinfected and will remain so until students and staff return.
Finally, we urge all of you to rigorously adhere to the directives from the public health agencies in reference to coronavirus in order to keep ourselves and everyone around us healthy. We are starting to see the light but we still have a way to go.