As with elementary and secondary schools, Quebec expects CEGEP and university students to return to campuses from January 17, but will allow them to remain distance learning until the end of the month. However, uncertainty remains for many students and teachers.
Published January 7th
The Ministry of Higher Education confirmed this on Friday in a message sent to CEGEP and universities: “in accordance with the recommendations of the Department of Public Health” everyone will be able to be in classes on January 17th.
But like universities that have already announced they are postponing their return to school by a few weeks (University of Montreal and Laval University, among others), the government is planning for higher education institutions that want a “transition period” to allow them to remain distance learning no later than January 31st.
This ministerial slogan does nothing to diminish the complexity of the situation at CEGEP, says Lucie Pichet, president of the Federation of CEGEP Teachers (FEC-CSQ). Among the teachers preparing for the session, there is “uncertainty”.
We are in the same situation as the school network: no matter how much we are told to prepare for January 17, people find it hard to believe because there is an explosion of cases of COVID-19.
Lucy Pichet, President of the Tsegep Teachers’ Federation
The President of the Quebec Student Federation (FECQ), Samuel Vaillancourt, believes it is time for Minister Danielle McCann to address the students.
“At the moment, we are being told what will be like last fall, but we see that this is not adjusted to the number of cases that we see every day. This is very disturbing. How are we going to make campuses safer than last semester? asks M. Vallancourt, waiting for “concrete” statements.
He suggests that the government could take advantage of the “very strong support” of CEGEP students for vaccinations, to offer a third dose on campus, or even distribute rapid tests to students. Like a good part of the population, most of them do not have them on hand.
In the days leading up to the start of the school year, teachers also have “pragmatic considerations like the third dose and rapid tests,” says Lucie Pichet.
“Minor and controlled” outbreaks
The Ministry of Higher Education says it has no plans to introduce a vaccination passport for attending classes at the Center for Economic Evaluation and Universities, and recalls that outbreaks at these institutions last fall were “small and manageable.”
That’s true, says Samuel Vaillancourt, but the infectiousness of the Omicron variant is a game-changer. What is planned for students who will need to self-isolate in greater numbers for 5 or 10 days due to symptoms? Have we planned anything for them? the FECQ president asks.
What we want to avoid is that a student who has symptoms or is waiting for a test is forced to go to their campus.
Samuel Vaillancourt, President of the Federation of University Students of Quebec
The start date varies depending on the CEGEP in the province, but most of them will accept their students no later than January 24th.
If the Fédération des cegeps pointed to Press that “CEGEP are preparing to resume presence” as planned, Regroupement des cégeps de Montréal notes that those who are due to start work on January 17 plan to do so remotely.
“CEGEP and the Universities of Montreal meet regularly with the Montreal Regional Department of Health. The last meeting took place on Wednesday. We will have another one in two weeks,” said Nathalie Vallet, president of the Regroupement des cégeps de Montréal. These meetings, she said, allow us to discuss the conduct of affairs in institutions.
Some CEGEPs have already informed their community that a “backup plan” can be quickly activated to return to school first at a distance. This is the case in Cégep de Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, where the school year is scheduled to start on January 24th. At Cégep de Sherbrooke we are preparing to return to presence from January 17th.
In any case, some students have not weathered the uncertainty caused by the new wave of COVID-19. Faced with the fear of a new session that will be completely remote, some have already decided to cancel their courses, we inform FECQ.
Number of public CEGEPs in Quebec
Number of CEGEP students in regular education
Source: CEGEP Federation.