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Manitoba Teachers’ Society Urges Province to Suspend Classes Earlier

March 16, 2020 1:57 PM | News


A vacant teachers desk is pictured at the front of an empty classroom is pictured at McGee Secondary school in Vancouver, B.C. Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. The Manitoba government says it is closing schools for three weeks because of COVID-19. Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen says classes will be suspended starting Monday, March 23. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

WINNIPEG — The union representing Manitoba’s 16,000 public school teachers is asking the province to expedite the suspension of classes, no later than this Wednesday, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Manitoba Teachers’ Society wrote a letter to Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen on Monday, urging him not to wait until Monday, March 23. It’s also calling on Goertzen to allow teachers to work from home instead of preparing class lessons in virtually empty schools.

“Waiting a week to suspend classes is not in line with best practices on social distancing as directed by The Public Health Agency of Canada to help minimize the spread of COVID-19,” MTS president James Bedford said.

“In many classrooms across Manitoba, increasing the distance between desks is not feasible since the classrooms are already crowded. In younger grades, there are no individual desks because the students often sit at round tables. More importantly, we have learned from watching other cities that asymptomatic transmission is possible and that time is of the essence in helping to flatten the curve.”

Speaking at an unrelated news conference Monday afternoon, Goertzen said he’s relying on advice from medical professionals and it’s not up to politicians to dictate when classes should be cancelled.

The province announced its original plan on March 13 to suspend classes, giving educators and parents a one week buffer to make alternate arrangements.

Classes in K-12 Manitoba schools will be suspended for three weeks beginning March 23, including one week prior to spring break and another week thereafter.

Manitoba Teachers' Society Letter