Back-to-school: Message from Mayor Christina M. Smith

As summer comes to a close, many Westmount families are nervously preparing for the start of a new school year. While we welcome the reopening of our schools, we remain concerned about the pandemic and the health and well-being of our children, staff and teachers.

All of us at City Hall share your concerns, and we want to inform you of the steps we are taking in collaboration with the leaders of our schools to minimize the risk of the spread of the virus.

The key elements of our plan are as follows:

 Promoting Outdoor Learning: As long as we maintain social distancing, the science is clear that being outside minimizes the chances of the virus spreading. We are working with and urging schools to take full advantage of our many parks and green spaces and use them as outdoor learning spaces as often as possible. We are also working with schools to build temporary structures on their school properties, which will allow them to offer instruction outdoors. That is why you will see temporary fences and tents in several schoolyards.

 School Drop-Offs: Our Public Security and Traffic teams are collaborating with school administrators to determine the safest locations around schools for drop-off areas at the start and end of the school day. This is particularly important as we expect many schools will have staggered starts this year. As a result, you will see increased signage and traffic calming measures around our many schools. Please slow down when you are in the vicinity of our schools!

 Parking for Teachers: Thanks to our teachers, Westmount schools are exceptional, we are grateful to them for their commitment to our children’s learning and for their professionalism. As a result of the pandemic and concerns about the transmission of the virus, more teachers than usual will be driving to school rather than taking public transit. Parking will be a challenge since all of our schools are located in residential neighbourhoods. One simple way to help is if you have an extra parking space at your home to reach out to the nearest school to make it available for teachers during the day. These teachers are frontline workers, so let’s come together to support them as best we can. Public Security is working with each school to determine the best plan for each school for on-street parking.

Our summer programming is also drawing to an end, and I would like to thank our Sports and Recreation team for offering a first-rate programme under difficult circumstances. Unlike other municipalities, we opted to open our pool, day camps and offer outdoor programming. And we did it safely.

You can find all the details of our fall programming on our website.

The students who worked at the day camp and our lifeguards at the pool could have easily stayed home, but they didn’t. Council and I want to express our gratitude to these young people who worked hard under stressful conditions. We wish you continued success as you return to school, and we hope you enjoyed and learned from your work experience.

In looking ahead, we remain concerned about a potential second wave. In March, we came together as a community to protect our seniors and our most vulnerable, and to make sure our health care system could take care of those who became sick. Now, six months later, we need to put that same collective effort towards ensuring our children and teachers benefit from a safe re-opening of our schools. Our commitment, as described above, is to work hand in hand with our schools and to provide them with whatever support we can.

At the same time, I urge you to continue to be vigilant, wear masks and social distance, and wash your hands regularly to protect your neighbours, as well as yourself.

Stay safe and happy back to school for all the students.