Dear Parents and Friends,
Following the Minister of Education’s announcement for the gradual reopening of schools across Quebec over the next few weeks, we are very aware that there is still a lot of anxiety as you consider sending your children back to class. École Socrates-Démosthène will be welcoming its students as of May 19, 2020. Taking into account all the circumstances, this is a huge logistical undertaking and our School is already moving forward with the planning and organizing. As has been previously indicated, the return to class will be optional for preschool and elementary school-aged children.
We know that throughout the province there is currently a lot of opposition for the return to class this year, which is very understandable. Medical authorities, including our in-house infectious disease consultant, Dr. Christos Karatzios (please refer to his detailed letter below), though, are confident that young children have little to fear. The Quebec Government is monitoring the evolution of the virus very closely and has announced that their plans for the reopening might change at any time.
We reiterate that parents are not required to send their children back to school. Some parents may choose to keep their child at home if, for example, the child or someone else in the home has a weak immune system. In order to plan accordingly our School needs to know how many children will be returning to class on May 19. To ensure the social distancing safety measure, a maximum of 15 students will be permitted per classroom. High school services will not be offered to our students in school until the fall. Our high school teachers will continue working from a distance with their students until the end of the school year.
Our School is committed to providing a quality education to all children whether they will be in our buildings or whether they will remain at home. Our extraordinary educators will make every effort to continue teaching and assure all our students receive the same education. It is important to note that because of the exceptional circumstances, MÉES has suspended the Régime pédagogique, which prescribes every aspect concerning educational services.
In the process, our educators have been directed to focus on the core courses. Some activities like physical education have been cancelled. Class compositions and schedules will be re-arranged. Your children, whether at home or in class, might not have all their regular educators working with them. Our teachers are also focusing on reorganizing their educational material and methods and are once again adapting to another new reality. And for students returning to class, we will be providing the safest environment possible respecting all Santé publique guidelines and MÉES directives.
HCGM and School personnel are leaving no stone unturned with respect to health protocols. Personal protective equipment (PPE) has already been ordered for staff. Protective barriers are going up. On top of the sanitizers and disinfectants that we had in all our campuses prior to the closure, more have been ordered. New signage is being installed, including distancing and directional markers. The Staff is coordinating bathroom usage, circulation in corridors and staircases. They are also organizing recreation and lunch periods to assure safety measures are respected. Special attention will be given to arrivals and departures. And our maintenance staff will be continually disinfecting once we reopen our campuses.
On top of the directives and guidelines each campus will be forwarding to families over the next few days, please take note that certain services like cafeteria use and hot lunches will not resume, so all returning students must bring lunch from home. Drinking fountains will not be accessible and all children must have their own water bottles. The use of PPE for students has not been demanded by MÉES but students are free to bring their own. Parents and visitors will not be allowed to enter our school buildings. Students arriving late will have to return home.
Furthermore, there will be an opportunity, by invitation, for parents to pick up their child’s belongings from school. More information will be provided by your campus administrators. For now, teachers and staff will continue their distance relationship with their students and their parents.
École Socrates-Démosthène will also be providing SÉP daycare services as of May 19. The same health and safety protocols will be respected. The specific details will be given by the SÉP administrators.
Our School will also have access to its bus transport system. As the Minister has announced, drivers will be protected with a barrier and PPE. The campus administration will be following up with you for this service as well.
On the subject of school fees, we realize that many of our parents have questions and preoccupations. Since our School has continued to operate despite the closure, tuition fees will not be reimbursed. Credits (reimbursements for students leaving our School), will be offered for certain services, including SÉP and transport during the period the School was closed. 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.
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 will continue to offer 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 a remarkable 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.
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.
You are invited to consult the links below on our School’s reopening which were posted on our social media this week:
The most important thing right now is that we need to know as precisely as possible, how many children will be returning to school. This will help us to properly organize our campus environments and allow us to better coordinate our human resources.
With our sincerest regards,
The Director General,
Dr Karatzios‘ letter
Dear parents and teachers of École Socrates-Démosthène,
Over the course of this SARS-CoV-2 COVID-19 pandemic, the medical community has learned a lot and is continuing to learn a lot about this virus and what it can do or can’t do. As this pandemic unfolds live before us we also understand that what may be true today might be untrue tomorrow.
However, when a trend starts to emerge about something, we start to accept that the information this trend brings is correct. This trend is that children get mild disease and don’t easily transmit the virus to others.
The Quebec Government announced this week that daycares and elementary schools will be gradually reopened starting May 11, 2020 for the province with the exception of the Montreal urban area schools that are scheduled to open on May 19, 2020. This is all part of the plan to slowly restart the economy after the pandemic first wave lockdown.
This “reopening of schools” announcement has created fear and confusion among parents and teachers alike. I understand and share your concern. However there are some hopeful news that have made us in the medical community feel cautiously optimistic that school reopenings might not pose a danger for children, their teachers, and their families.
I am not here to promote or oppose any government decision. It has been made very clear by the government that no one will force you to send your children to school if you feel uncomfortable doing so, and/or if your child and/or someone living with the child has a chronic and serious medical condition, is pregnant, is immune suppressed, or is aged above 60 years. It’s ultimately your choice. I am here to present to you the data that the Quebec Government and the Quebec Public Health officers have based their decision to reopen schools on:
There have recently been large epidemiological studies in peer-reviewed journals that describe the weak transmission risk in children less than 10. In other words, these children do not easily transmit to other children or to adults. Studies out of China, France, the United Kingdom, Iceland, and Australia have shown that infected children who had hundreds of opportunities to infect other children (including their siblings) and adults (parents and teachers) did not. One study out of Norway showed a possible transmission in one family only. Both the Quebec and the British Columbia Ministries of Health have announced these results officially. We do not have yet an epidemiological study here in Quebec but we know that despite adults getting sick (some seriously) within tight knit families their children did not, and these children did not transmit to their (many) siblings. Some had high evidence of COVID-19 in their throats and some had none even. There are many theories as to why this is but the overall conclusion is the same: young children seem to not transmit this virus and are not the drivers of this pandemic unlike other respiratory viruses like influenza.
We know that children can get sick (some seriously) and a few have died. However, when compared to the overall numbers of worldwide infections, the risk of all this happening in children is rare. There have only been less than ten pediatric deaths in the World since the beginning of this pandemic. While any death is tragic, the important message to you is that the risk of serious COVID-19 in your child is minimal and this is encouraging.
Despite all this encouraging news, for extra safety, schools are still required to minimize the number of students in their classes and teachers are still encouraged to promote social distancing among themselves and among children. École Socrates-Démosthène has had a pandemic plan since 2009 H1N1 and they have updated this during the COVID-19 pandemic. They have taken every precaution to keep you and the children safe and will adhere to every health and disinfection/cleaning protocol outlined in the pandemic plan in accordance with Quebec’s Public Health recommendations.
1) Children will likely have a mild or asymptomatic course if they were to get infected with COVID-19.
2) Based on what we know thus far: While adults and adolescents can easily transmit to each other and to children, children seem not to be able to easily transmit to each other and to adults.
3) École Socrates-Démosthène has a pandemic plan in place and is following the recommendations of Quebec Public Health to keep teachers, employees, and the children safe.
4) No one is forcing you to send your children to school on May 19, 2020. School reopening will start slowly and in stages. For now, the first phase is to send healthy children from healthy families to school. Testing of cases throughout Quebec will increase over the next few days in order to monitor the course of reopening the province. Things may change based on what is seen: if all is good then things will proceed. If not, things will stop.
5) Despite encouraging news, please continue to keep children away from high risk groups of people (including grandparents above 60 years of age).
As we all move slowly forward we are cautiously optimistic about the encouraging data we are seeing with regards to young children and COVID-19. Rest assured that health professionals are here to guide you through these difficult times.
Christos Karatzios MD
Pediatric Infectious Diseases specialist