Music teacher Veronica Graniero arrived at the Honoré-Mercier elementary school in Saint-Léonard, Que., Tuesday morning wearing a skirt covered with music notes.
“I’m just really happy to start a school year where everybody is smiling and happy,” she laughed.
It was the first day of classes for students at that and other English elementary and high schools across the province, starting yet another year in a pandemic.
Very few people Global News spoke with were worried about COVID, though, saying many people are vaccinated, so things are different. There was scarcely a mask in sight.
“We don’t have to (wear it),” Grade 4 student Maya Picarella said. “If we want (to wear a mask), we could.”
The provincial mask mandate was lifted last spring.
Graniero is happy she can finally see her students’ faces
“Because I transferred here two years ago,” she explained, “so I met everybody with their masks already on and I didn’t know what they looked like.”
School board officials caution, however, everyone still has to be careful.
“There aren’t any measures right now in place but we have to rely on people’s responsibility,” English Montreal School Board (EMSB) chairman Joe Ortona pointed out. “Check your children for symptoms. If they have symptoms, get them tested before sending them to school.”
According to Graniero, the school is still taking precautions to keep everyone safe.
“Try still to keep a bit of a distance,” she said. “If anyone is feeling sick (they need to) wear a mask, even if it’s a cold, to mitigate any possible spread of COVID.”
Ortona pointed out that there are air purifiers in all the classrooms.
Something else that could become a problem at Honoré-Mercier and other schools, though, is a shortage of substitute teachers.
“We have qualified people who’re not interested in teaching because they’re undervalued and overworked and burned out,” Ortona claimed.
He blames the pandemic and Quebec government policies but for now, he said, all classes at EMSB schools have teachers.
No matter the worries, students and teachers at Honoré-Mercier said they are looking forward to the year ahead.