Province suspends classes for K-12 students indefinitely for the year, while educators will utilize technology for remote teaching
WINNIPEG — Manitoba students will be out of school for much longer than originally thought due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
The province on Tuesday announced the suspension of in-person K-12 classes indefinitely until the end of the year. Students were set to return to the classroom on April 13 after three weeks off, including one week during spring break.
“We must do everything we can to flatten the COVID curve and protect the health and well-being of all Manitobans,” said Premier Brian Pallister.
“The decision to suspend classroom learning in school indefinitely for this school year is the easiest decision to make because it protects our children and their education – it is the right thing to do.”
The decision was made based on the advice from the chief provincial public health officer to help ‘flatten the curve.’
The province says no student will be held back due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but students must actively engage in learning from home.
The Grade 12 provincial exams will be cancelled, but teacher assessments will be implemented. All students on track to graduate will do so.
For students in early and middle years, provincial assessments are complete for the current school year, but other assessments will continue.
“Nothing beats a teacher in a classroom, but these are unprecedented times and we know our members will continue doing superb work with their students until the end of the school year,” said James Bedford, president of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society.
Recognizing that Internet connectivity is an issue in remote communities, the province is looking at ways to provide resources for these students to ensure they can continue learning.
Child-care centres located in schools will continue to operate under the current conditions set out by the chief provincial public health officer.
“The efforts and success Manitoba teachers and educators have displayed during this public health pandemic have been inspiring,” said Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen.
“I join all Manitobans in asking educators to continue doing all they can to use remote and innovative methods to teach students through the remainder of this school year. Our government is asking for an all-hands-on-deck approach, with their assistance and with that of parents, caregivers, principals, trustees and superintendents for the benefit of all students.”
The government on Monday announced the closure of non-essential businesses — including bars, salons and many retail stores — starting on Wednesday and lasting until at least April 14.
Job losses possible
Grant Doak, deputy education minister, said teachers are to engage with students and their parents to ensure kids continue to follow the curriculum.
“The expectation is, as much as possible, that learning will continue,” Doak said.
There may be job losses because of the school closures, the government admitted, but some workers such as educational assistants will be redirected to help Grade 12 students finish their year.
Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew said the Progressive Conservative government should guarantee all jobs.
“Every person who works in a school or child-care centre plays a role in our students’ education, from teachers … to bus drivers. Now is not the time for job cuts or layoffs,” Kinew said in a written statement.
Read the letter sent by Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen to all school divisions (PDF).
— With files from The Canadian Press