Quebec students will be returning to in-person learning on Monday as planned, despite a surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant and a rise in hospitalizations.

Quebec Premier François Legault confirmed the news on social media Wednesday evening, saying public health was in favour of reopening grade schools and high schools.

In a Facebook post, Legault justified the decision by saying that COVID-19 does not pose a significant health risk to the vast majority of children but that not going to school can have important consequences stemming from isolation and learning delays.

“It’s important for children to return to school, to learn, to join their friends again and to regain a certain normalcy,” he wrote in French.

Parents and teachers have expressed concern about Monday’s return.

The Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers is hoping more measures will be put in place including N95 masks for teachers, rapid tests for all grades and air purifiers in classrooms.

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While Legault said he understood that parents, teachers and staff were worried he cited high vaccination rates as a reassuring factor.

According to the premier, 98 per cent of high school students have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 89 per cent have received two doses.

“Our elementary school children are nearly 60 per cent vaccinated for the first dose and their immune response is very strong at this age,” he added.

Legault said most teachers have been vaccinated and have been on the priority list for third dose booster shots since December.

Additionally, the government will be making rapid tests available to schools and making masks mandatory for everyone.

A press conference is scheduled for Thursday afternoon at 3 p.m. where it is expected the province will unveil details of the government’s back-to-school plan.

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge and interim Public Health Director Dr. Luc Boileau are confirmed for the press conference, along with Health Minister Christian Dube.

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— With files from Global News’ Olivia O’Malley

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Annabelle Olivier

globalnews.ca

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