Quebec City, March 25, 2020
To Directors of Institutions of Higher Learning and to Education Partners
(translation of original French document found here) insert DOC2
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND HIGHER EDUCATION
1. The government announced the closure of the education system (elementary and secondary schools, training centers, private schools, cégeps, colleges and universities) from March 16 to May 1 inclusive.
Is this measure only for pupils and students?
For the public and private school network
- All schools and centers are closed.
- The staff usually assigned to these schools and centers must not, subject to exceptional measures, be present on site until May 1 inclusive.
- Administrative centers provide essential and strategic services, ideally by teleworking, when possible (tasks must allow it and tools must be available). This means that essential and strategic functions such as payroll management, payments to suppliers, building maintenance and security, and other similar activities, must be fulfilled.
- However, considering the exceptional nature of the situation, the personnel may be required at any time for emergency measures, for example, for the extraordinary opening of a temporary daycare service , for the processing of pay, or for a preventive building inspection.
We would like your next internal communications to state that “Cégep campuses, colleges and universities are closed until May 1, inclusive. In the case of colleges and universities, this is intended for students and staff members, while considering all the instructions sent. Thus, for the period from March 14 to May 1 inclusive, all unnecessary teaching and research activities are suspended in the physical premises of universities, cégeps and colleges.”
We remind you that for these activities, as for the other activities related to necessary or essential services, it is for directors to take the necessary decisions to minimize the physical presence in schools and on campuses. Telework should be encouraged. Related activities such as rental of premises as well as sports and cultural activities are also affected by the closure. Staff must continue to perform work functions. Alternative solutions such as teleworking are encouraged, where possible.
2. What is a necessary or essential service?
It is up to each organization to define its plan for maintaining the necessary or essential services. As for the presence of personnel assigned to essential activities, refer to the answer to Question 1. You can also consult the following address: https://www.quebec.ca/sante/problemes-de-sante/az/coronavirus-2019/fermeture- places-publics-stores-services-covid19 /
3. Can construction or renovation work continue?
Until April 13, 2020, only two (2) types of work are authorized:
construction firms for emergency repair or for security purposes;
electricians, plumbers and other trades-persons required for emergency services.
4. Since the majority of schools have closed and maintenance staff (workers, janitors, etc.) are required only for essential services, are there plans to take measures to ensure the continuity of the work already planned in the buildings (lead testing, cleaning, painting, repairs, monitoring of renovation work, preventive and restoration maintenance, etc.)?
Until April 13, 2020, the instruction that all activities carried out in the workplace must be suspended also applies to this type of work. The situation will be reassessed in due course.
However, those stages of projects that can be done at a distance can continue (e.g. production of plans and specifications).
5. Do we have to pay our staff?
Yes. The salary is maintained for all staff with an employment contract.
For daycare services, refer to the ministerial decree 2020-004 by the Minister of Health and Social Services available at Quebec.ca/coronavirus.
6. Is it possible for pupils, students or staff to return to their educational establishment to collect personal effects? Can school directors provide accommodation measures in this regard?
The parents of preschool, elementary and secondary students may retrieve their child’s school material at the school according to an established schedule, to avoid gatherings, once the Santé publique will be permitted to put measures in place. This will be done according to very specific instructions and no initiative should be taken until then. It is important that parents wait for instructions from their child's school before going to the school.
7. Can public and private establishments offer online courses during this period?
Initiatives which can be taken in order to use means other than in-person learning to offer courses or remote support are not prohibited if technological solutions are available. These initiatives can be proposed, but they cannot be demanded.
The MEES will make educational material available to students on the Web and the digital tools that schools possess. Public and private institutions will be invited to transfer or enhance these for the benefit of their clientele. However, use of the tools made available to parents and students is optional and does not constitute an obligation. Work is also ongoing with Télé-Quebec for the dissemination of educational content.
8. The MEES has encouraged institutions to develop distance learning. How will MEES remedy the situation in the case of establishments and fields of study that cannot use this option?
As of March 30, 2020, parents and students of preschool, elementary and secondary will gradually have access to educational videos broadcast on public television, an online resource kit developed by partners (e.g. educational applications) and optional educational activities offered by schools. Starting April 6, 2020, activity suggestions will be offered to families, adapted to the age of the children, and by subject.
9. Can the MEES award diplomas to any cohort of students who have not taken their final exams, including ministerial exams?
The Minister may, when the circumstances so require, cancel the test and retain the marks obtained by the educational establishments as the final result. The current exceptional circumstances mean that the administration of ministerial examinations will be cancelled, and that the results of educational establishments will be considered for obtaining diplomas. The passage of students to the next level will be made according to the professional judgment made by teachers, according to results obtained beforehand by the students.
10. Will Emploi-Québec assume the costs related to cancelled activities (e.g. payment of instructors)?
This concern will be transmitted to the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Solidarity in order to know the modalities that will be applied for these grants.
11. Will you implement consultation measures within the network?
Yes. This consultation mechanism is already in place. Regular conference calls will continue to ensure efficient transmission of information and to discuss the needs that may emerge.
12. How do we govern ourselves in the management of gradual returns that were in progress or that are planned? For example, how should the remuneration of a teacher who was to be gradually returned next week at two days be applied ? Two days at 100% and three days at 85%?
In the context of the prevailing, exceptional situation, we are of the opinion that the person should receive the remuneration that they would have received, had it not been for the closure of the schools. That is, they receive 100% of their salary for the days they would have worked, and salary insurance benefits for the days they would not have worked. The planned gradual returns raise different issues (e.g. re-qualification period in the context where the employer cannot assess whether the employee is fit for work). The MEES is awaiting recommendations from the Treasury Board Secretariat on common guidelines for different sectors.
13. Will students have to resume suspended school time during the summer?
No. There is no question of extending the school year during the summer.
14. Will the government compensate losses incurred for the cancellation of school trips?
Currently, no compensation is planned. School boards must document all expenses caused by the current situation.
15. Should adult student internships be postponed?
For vocational training centers
Considering that training services are suspended, the training centers are not able to supervise work placements, and internships must therefore be suspended until further notice. Some will be declared complete and others will have to be completed.
For higher education
When the training settings have confirmed continuity, that students can progress in an environment where Santé publique instructions are respected, and that the students can carry out their training, for example by using teleworking, internships are possible. However, no student can be penalized for failing to meet requirements.
16. Should we expect paid planning time?
The paid planning time for childcare services provided for in the working conditions must be maintained.
17. Regarding the management of salary insurance, how do we deal with absences? Do we suspend the disability to pay 100% of the salary? If not, do we continue to request medical information as usual?
Employees on disability must continue to receive salary insurance benefits during the closure period. If a return was scheduled on a date preceding the reopening of establishments, the person must receive their regular remuneration from that date.
18. Can a teacher assign homework to students?
Non-compulsory local measures may indeed have been put in place by certain schools or school boards. Moreover, teachers have room to maneuver under collective agreements and can therefore implement various initiatives.
The Minister of Education and Higher Education has asked the school network to quickly provide educational activities accessible through public television, the Web and digital tools available to schools. Use of the tools made available to parents and students is optional and does not constitute an obligation.
19. How do we govern in relation to the deadlines set out in the collective agreements (e.g. deadlines linked to the placement office)?
It is recommended to maintain the deadlines set out in the collective agreements. In special cases where maintaining a deadline proves unrealistic given the current situation, a flexible application can be considered subject to agreement with union associations.
20. What treatment should be applied for temporary employees ?
The general principle should apply to all temporary employees: provide temporary employees with remuneration based on hours already scheduled (known and agreed schedule) for the period from March 12 to May 1, 2020.
21. Will a substitute be paid?
The general principle should apply to all temporary employees: provide temporary employees with pay based on hours already scheduled (known and agreed schedule) for the period from March 12 to May 1, 2020.
22. Does the government plans to slow down or delay payment of subsidies indicated in the budgetary rules for private educational institutions accredited for purposes of subsidies?
No. The MEES will maintain payments according to schedule.
23. Can children with learning difficulties continue with their Individualized Education Plans (e.g. telephone, virtual tools, etc.)?
Whenever possible, it is recommended that the Individualized Education Plan be revised to adjust to this new school reality, prioritizing students with the greatest need. Remember that school administrators are responsible for developing Individualized Education Plans and monitoring them.
24. Is there a measure planned to meet the nutritional needs of children who need it?
Yes. The MEES is currently working on the implementation of universal food aid in collaboration with various departments and agencies, including the Ministry of Health and Social Services, food banks and the Club des petits déjeuners, with which MEES has a partnership since 2018-2019.
25. We assume that expenses related to COVID-19 are covered by budgetary envelopes announced by MEES, but we also know that enrollments for 2020-2021 will be considerably lower than expected from the summer session (which may even be cancelled entirely). What support will be given to institutions to continue their activities with this sharp drop in income (especially international students)?
For the moment, the funding granted by the MEES is based on the enrolment numbers. The MEES is working to ensure that payments are made in the coming months. In the meantime, if necessary, the MEES can authorize increases in the lines of credit for institutions. Note that MEES is currently analyzing the situation. Instructions are forthcoming.
26. What adjustments will be made to the student financial assistance program in relation to the crisis?
For the moment, no modification has been made to the student financial assistance program: the planned payments are maintained.
27. With regard to student reimbursement requests, do colleges have to respond to the request? Will the government help us in these cases?
At this time no course is cancelled. The funding rules are maintained as planned. MEES is assessing the situation.
28. Can rapid adjustments be made to financial aid concerning the calculation of the aid currently paid to consider the reduction in income of beneficiaries following the crisis and job losses?
The income considered in the calculation of the 2019-2020 year is that of the 2019 calendar year. Thus, the fluctuations of the income of students in 2020 will be not considered for 2019-2020. They will, however, have repercussions in the calculation of 2020-2021, as the case may be.
However, the government has announced a suspension of all payments of loans taken out under the Loans and Bursaries Program and Loan program for part-time studies, for a duration of six (6) months.
29. How do we report a situation that does not respect the approach prioritized by authorities?
- The authorities prioritize collaboration and cooperation of the population with government measures taken in connection with COVID-19.
-The respect of civic mindedness and instructions issued by the government continues to be the most effective measure to counter the emergence of new cases.
- No decree or recourse to legal provisions obliges the police to punish (e.g. issuance of statements of offense or arrest) citizens violating government orders.
- Police remain vigilant and will continue to intervene according to the powers and duties framing their functions, as well as the intervention priorities that fall under the responsibility of the police force.
- Citizens are asked to not overwhelm the telephone lines of 911 emergency centers and the COG (Centre des opérations gouvernementales) to denounce gatherings. The lines must be free for emergencies.
- Information requests regarding COVID-19 should be addressed to 1-877 644-6565.
- The police services must prioritize their activities and use their resources efficiently in the function of the powers granted to them in the context of a health emergency. They may intervene in exceptional situations in support of the public security authorities as part of their mission.
30. Regarding the directives addressed to post-secondary institutions concerning the possibility of maintaining certain teaching and research activities, what is meant by "certain teaching and research activities?”
Some activities for training related to health care services can be maintained to ensure the provision of care, including nursing internships, externships and medical residencies, etc. Teaching activities, including grading, can also be done remotely.
As for that which concerns research activities, it is up to each institution to determine whether an activity is necessary or essential. For example, certain research activities could be maintained if the personnel and equipment made it possible to accompany or support health care services. This could also involve projects involving care of animals or plants, as well as cell culture.
31. Must the CEGEP compensate an employee (unionized or not) who refuses to appear on the
workplaces by invoking voluntary isolation?
If an employee informs you that they must isolate themselves voluntarily, you must:
- Question them on the risk factors at the origin of the isolation requirement and ask if this voluntary isolation has been instructed by a competent authority.
- If it is a personal decision not supported by a recommendation from a competent authority, but the risk factors seem serious to you, ask them to contact a competent authority to objectively assess their situation.
If the situation of voluntary isolation is not recognized by a competent authority, inform them that they must report for work. The personnel could be assigned to a place other than their usual location, namely their domicile. Alternative solutions such as telework are encouraged when possible. Naturally, the tasks must allow it and the tools must be available.
If the employee refuses to comply, they should be told that they will be subject to administrative or disciplinary measures.
32. Do we have to remunerate employees with special status (e.g. lecturers, occasional staff, personnel on replacement or for extra work, time-sheet workers, contract staff for non-credit training )?
The general principle should apply to all temporary employees: grant temporary employees pay based on hours already scheduled in (time known and agreed) for the period from March 12 to May 1, 2020.
33. Must a cégep pay an employee in compulsory isolation for 14 days who would otherwise have been required to perform work functions and departed for a trip abroad after March 16?
The Quebec government recommends cancelling non-essential trips. In addition, the federal government has announced the closure of Canada's borders, as have several other countries, including the United States. In the circumstances, few people are likely to find themselves in this situation.
If necessary, the situation should be managed on a case-by-case basis, always considering the recommendations in force, particularly in relation to the possibility of teleworking.
34. Does the suspension of courses apply to assignment submissions? Can teachers continue to request submissions, especially if these require access to laboratories or equipment present on campus?
Colleges are responsible for learning and evaluating training activities. In all cases, students should not be penalized because during that period they could not achieve what is expected or follow the changes in in teaching methods.
35. Are salaries maintained for lecturers even if no teaching is education is provided?
Contracts must be honoured, so salaries are maintained for teachers and lecturers.
36. With the announcement of the closure of the universities, will there be deadlines for the declaration of the 2019 fall quarter and the various amendments? Does Gestion des données sur l’effectif universitaire team intend to send instructions in this regard?
The MEES grants a delay until April 14, 2020, for the end of regular amendments for the 2018-2019 academic year and the end date for the Fall 2019 collection. For more information write to Gdeu-Pilotage@education.gouv.qc.ca.
37. Will the declaration of student enrollments for fall 2019 be postponed by a few days or weeks, compared to the date of March 31 initially planned?
The MEES grants a delay until April 14, 2020, for the end of regular amendments for the 2018-2019 academic year and the end date for the Fall 2019 collection. For more information write to Gdeu-Pilotage@education.gouv.qc.ca.
38. Will tuition fees be reimbursed for the period when the student would not have been present (ACS, private college)?
For the moment, the year has not yet been canceled. A response is therefore premature. Recall that, according to the present circumstances, the measures taken by the government concerning the cessation of activities of institutions in the education and higher education networks will end on May 1, inclusive. We will follow developments closely and inform you of the guidelines on a regular basis.
39. Should I continue to repay my student loan?
No, the government has announced a suspension of payment on all loans taken out under the Loans and Bursaries Program and the Loans Program for Part-Time Studies for a period of six (6) months. Interest will be assumed by the government.
No payment is expected during this period. There is no procedure to follow or justification to provide to take advantage of this exceptional measure, since it will automatically apply to everyone who has contracted a debt with Aide financière aux études.
40. We are concerned about the situation of international students on the territory. They are not eligible for loans and bursaries and will see their part-time work income decrease. We are verifying their eligibility for worker assistance programs, but are there any measures or directives to support them during this period? Are they covered for medical expenses to be incurred if they become sick?
For that which concerns the coverage of foreign students who are currently in Quebec, it is the responsibility of their jurisdiction of origin, as Quebec is responsible for Quebec students who are currently abroad. Nevertheless, Quebec is following the evolution of their situation with the help of the institutions.
41. As schools are closed, students in education (and in arts education) will not be able to complete their training sessions. Some courses will continue, but we fear that teachers who supervise the internships are not able to be present to assess the trainees.
The MEES is in discussion with the Association des doyens, doyennes et directeurs, directrices pour l’étude et la recherche en éducation au Québec (ADÉREQ) regarding the situation of students in education in order to find solutions.
42. Some members of our research staff (postdoctoral researchers, professionals, scholarship students) are remunerated by funds from granting agencies as well as from private sources. In many cases, these personnel need the infrastructure (laboratory, specialized equipment) to carry out their work. Does the MEES provide financial compensation to cover the costs incurred by the researchers who assume these research expenses ?
It is up to the institution to determine whether research activities are essential. More directions will follow.
43. What actions will the MEES take to continue to offer childcare services to parents who work in the health and social services network, as well as in essential services?
The current emergency childcare services will continue to be open and maintain a good capacity to receive.
44. What will be the remuneration of the staff?
Refer to Ministerial Order 2020-008 of the Minister of Health and Social Services available at Québec.ca/coronavirus.
45. I would like my private establishment to offer emergency childcare services for the children of health network and essential services personnel. Is it possible?
No, the schools authorized to open their doors for emergency childcare have already been identified. Other establishments are not requested at the moment.
46. Who are school emergency childcare services for ?
In a context where Quebecers are preparing for prolonged isolation, the Government of Quebec has expanded the list of occupations deemed essential that allow access to emergency childcare services.
The essential jobs and services that will allow access to emergency childcare as of March 18, 2020, are as follows:
- supply and distribution of drugs and pharmaceutical goods
- food inspection
- home services for seniors
- garbage collectors (waste collection)
- sanitary services (water treatment plants)
- government aviation services
- Ministry of Public Security (civil security and coroners)
- suicide prevention centers
- client communication center of the Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Solidarity
- Red Cross
- Institut national de santé publique du Québec
- Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec
Here is the list of essential jobs and services for which access to childcare services emergency is already granted:
- all professions in the health and social services network
- pre-hospital emergency services (ambulance technicians, dispatchers)
- private offices of professional resources (healthcare network)
- community pharmacies
- intermediate resources and private residences for seniors
- providers of home services to seniors and who work for social economy enterprises providing home care
- employees of 811 and 911
- correctional officers
- special constables
- educators and support staff of the emergency childcare services
Occupations are targeted by virtue of their direct and immediate impact on the safety and health of Quebecers. Access to the network of childcare services remains restricted to help ensure consistency with all government actions. The measure is put in place to allow you to work during the period during which educational establishments and childcare services will be closed.
47. Do school daycare staff have access to childcare services (0-5 years)?
These services are also available for staff responsible for providing emergency daycare.
Children under the age of four (4) can attend an educational childcare service. Children who do not occupy a place in a recognized childcare service will be able to obtain a place in a childcare service for the period covered by the state of health emergency. Children who already attend a daycare service can continue to attend it according to the usual schedule and conditions. More information is available at Quebec.ca.
For children aged four (4) who are not usually enrolled in school, they are accepted in emergency school daycare services. This is an exceptional service offered to those people who would have no alternative.
When in doubt, if the person comes to school to receive the service, the instruction given to school board directors is to not refuse anybody.
48. For childcare staff, what will be the working conditions? Remuneration? Seniority? Obligation?
- Remuneration: Refer to ministerial decree 2020-008
- Seniority: As provided for in collective agreements
- Obligation: Refer to ministerial decree 2020-008 of the Minister of Health and Social Services available at Québec.ca/coronavirus.
It is not intended to offer evening, night and weekend services, as parents of these children have already planned for these time periods.
49. Will school directors receive health files for the children who do not come from the childcare service?
When registering online, parents must specify whether the child has special needs and explain them briefly. They must also specify if the child has allergies, and which ones, if any. On the control sheet provided by the MEES and made available by the directors-general, a space is provided for staff to add these details if necessary. In addition, upon arrival at the emergency childcare service, parents are informed that they must provide their child's health insurance number, and a place is provided to indicate this on the control sheet.
50. Should distance measures be put in place if there are several groups in a school?
Yes, you are invited to respect the government guidelines regarding distancing.
51. Will children in emergency childcare have access to educational services, such as children who are at home because of the closure of educational institutions?
The tools that will be made available to parents and students will also be available to these children. However, their use remains optional and does not constitute an obligation.
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