While experts and players in the education community oppose the cancellation of the March school break, the “father” of the spring break, Fernand Paradis, believes on the contrary that the exceptional context would justify his disappearance this year.
“Intuitively, I’m inclined to believe that the main thing is teaching. For this reason, I believe we have to put aside the break week this year, “he told the Newspaper in a telephone interview yesterday.
Fernand Paradis was the head of a Quebec school board when he managed, in 1979, in consultation with the teachers’ union, to establish the first week of spring break. The initiative snowballed.
Now 88, he recalls that spring break was created to allow students to drop out by doing a host of activities, many of which will not be possible this year.
Mr. Paradis is also concerned that students are behind in school due to the pandemic.
His opinion, however, is far from shared in the education network. Teachers ‘unions, parents’ representatives and school administrators oppose the wall-to-wall cancellation of spring break.
Not the solution
At the Regroupement des committees de parents autonomes du Québec, this is not considered to be the priority at this time. “There are more urgent things to do to help our students,” says his co-spokesperson Marc-Étienne Deslauriers.
At the Fédération des committees de parents du Québec, the president, Kévin Roy, believes that decisions regarding the school calendar must be made locally. Students in the Montreal area missed many more days of school than those in the Gaspé, he argues.
Several experts also agree that this is not the preferred solution.
“There is a lot of burnout this year. Maintaining spring break will give teachers a bit of a break. In terms of learning delays, the duration of teaching does not necessarily guarantee quality, “says Stéphane Allaire, professor in the Department of Educational Sciences at the University of Quebec at Chicoutimi.
Private schools are getting organized
In the private network, some schools are however planning to set up different formulas for the spring break, indicates the president of the federation which represents them, David Bowles. At Collège Charles-Lemoyne, where Mr. Bowles is director general, remedial courses will be offered to students in difficulty during the March break, he says.
On the health front, some also believe that canceling the spring break could prevent many families from taking vacations in the sun, with all the risk of contagion that these trips abroad involve.
However, a change in the school calendar is not the solution, according to epidemiologist Nimâ Machouf. “The federal government must close the borders, that does not make sense in the current context,” she says.
► Education Minister Jean-François Roberge’s office says the intention is to keep the planned spring break “for now”.
Did you know?
- In 1979, Fernand Paradis, then director of the Commission des écoles catholiques de Québec, established the first spring break, inspired by the “spring holidays” of schoolchildren in France.
- In the mid-1980s, spring break extended to all schools in the province.
- To keep to the school calendar, which must have 180 school days, schools had to move the start of the school year forward by one week at the end of August.
“We ask a lot, both of the students and of the education staff, everyone will need this break. It will take more than a year to recover. Let’s take the time to do things right. ”
– Josée Scalabrini, President of the Federation of Education Unions (FSE-CSQ)
“I hope they cancel the spring break. The children have several weeks to go back to school. My daughters would rather go to school than stay at home. “
– Sébastien Genois, father of three daughters aged 10, 12 and 15, Laval
“A week off, after two months of effort, it will encourage the young people. This period of leave is an interesting landmark for them. ”
– Dr Gilles Julien, pediatrician
“You have to think about doing things differently before changing the school calendar. There have been a lot of last minute changes in schools since the start of the year, you don’t need to add another layer. “
– Nancy Granger, professor in the Faculty of Education of the University of Sherbrooke