WINNIPEG — When students go back to school on September 8 in Manitoba, it will be a mixture of in-classroom and online learning.
In-class learning will resume five days per week for students in K-8, students with special needs (all grades) and students who require additional supports.
For students in Grades 9-12, the goal is to achieve in-person learning, but a blended scenario with remote learning may be possible a few days per week. High schools will be required to implement physical distancing and the use of cohorts to reduce the risk of transmission and to ensure documentation for contact tracing.
“The province is welcoming students back to classrooms for the new school year, while working closely with school divisions and Public Health,” said Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen.
“The best place for students is in class, giving them the full benefits of the tremendous work of Manitoba teachers and providing parents and caregivers with certainty that their children are receiving the best education possible.”
Students will not be required to wear masks, but schools will be asked to ensure students are two metres apart as much as possible.
Lunch and recess breaks are to be staggered to minimize congestion, and in many cases teachers will change classrooms instead of students.
Buses will be running at reduced capacity, and parents will be asked to transport their children to school if they can.
Additional health measures will remain in place, including physical distancing and creating more space in the classroom with desks spaced two metres apart (minimum one metre).
Goertzen says $48 million is available to ensure that schools are “COVID-ready” in September, adding the province is monitoring resource implications closely as part of its planning to ensure the safe return to classroom instruction in the upcoming school year. The funding is coming from savings by the school divisions when classes were suspended in March.
The Opposition New Democrats said the government is not offering schools enough money to adapt.
“It’s only maybe $220, $240 dollars per student,” NDP Leader Wab Kinew said.
“That may not be enough even to cover the cleaning and protective equipment costs for a given school year.”
Teachers and staff will return to schools on September 2, 3 and 4 for an orientation on public health requirements and the educational priorities to support students, as
well as professional learning around recovery learning.
Teachers’ society supports plan, but questions remain
The Manitoba Teachers’ Society says it supports the province’s plan for students to return to the classroom but has some concerns.
James Bedford, MTS president, says it’s now up to more than 35 school divisions to enact the province’s protocols. He worries that could result in as many different plans come September.
Bedford said MTS also has concerns regarding teacher workload, especially among teachers who might be asked to teach in-class students and those who will still be learning remotely.
“MTS will continue to work with the province and other stakeholders to ensure teachers and staff are protected and that teaching and student learning are not compromised,” he said.
Watch the announcement below:
— With files from The Canadian Press