WINNIPEG — Manitoba students in K-12 will be learning at home to begin the new year as the province tries to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Students were to return to the classroom on January 10 — an already delayed start following the holiday break — but will now be learning online until at least January 17.
Effective January 10, a phased-in approach will be applied to allow students of critical service workers in kindergarten to Grade 6 and all high-risk students and students with special learning needs in kindergarten to Grade 12 to attend school if no alternate care is available.
“Today we are announcing a slight adjustment for the return to classes to give schools additional time to implement enhanced protocols to ensure in-person learning for all students can continue under our pandemic plans and to give public health more time to learn about the omicron variant’s effects in Manitoba,” said Premier Heather Stefanson. “We know our children learn best in a classroom setting and it is our goal to ensure they can return to the classroom as quickly as possible.”
The Manitoba Teachers’ Society had been calling for a move to remote learning and for schools to be placed into “code red.”
“It’s incumbent on the school divisions to work with the province to ensure that those different things announced today are procured, such as the masks and the rapid tests,” union vice-president Nathan Martindale said.
“So we will be watching very closely over the next week what is happening out there in the schools.”
More rapid tests, masks for schools
The province will be distributing 500,000 rapid tests to all schools for students from kindergarten to Grade 6 and planning to expand access to rapid tests for all Manitobans as the rapid testing kit supply increases in Manitoba, particularly for schools with high case counts of COVID-19.
School staff will also be required to wear medical masks during this high transmission period and students will be allowed to wear a well-fitting mask with at least three layers. Manitoba will be distributing at least five million more child and adult medical masks over the next eight weeks to increase supply in schools and support increased demand.
Manitoba reported 1,757 new cases of the virus on Tuesday, which is an understated number due to approximately 6,500 backlogged tests.
Watch Tuesday’s news conference: