‘Clear as mud’: Manitoba teachers, students prepare for uncertain 2021 school year

It’s the start of another school year during a global pandemic, an experience Jenn Perner said her children know all too well.

“My oldest one has been in kindergarten like this, Grade 1 like this, and now going into Grade 2 — this is what she’s used to. This is normal for her, but it’s a tough one,” the mom of two said.

Her youngest daughter will enter kindergarten this year, which Perner said the four-year-old is excited about, but the pandemic is all she’s known.

“Our summer has basically been stay at home, play outside, just the four of us,” Perner said.

Perner is hopeful the familiarity of the pandemic will be a thing of the past come June as she crosses her fingers for normalcy in classrooms by the end of the school year, but says she’ll continue taking things day by day.

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Read more: Manitoba’s back-to-school plan compared to other provinces

For one elementary school teacher, preparing for this year has been less fearful than last September, but not as clear.

Global News has agreed to keep the teacher’s identity private out of concern for her job.

“When they called us back in a few days earlier last year, they at least gave us more guidelines of what we need, like we need to have tape marks on the floor we need to have arrows pointing directions,” the elementary teacher said. “But we were all just so scared and trying to figure out what’s going on.”

This year, she says communication has been lacking.

Read more: All Manitoba students to head back to classrooms in September

The teacher said she would find out changes to school plans at the same time as the rest of the public, and said they aren’t involved in conversations with the school divisions.

“This year, when the announcement comes out that we’ll be starting in level yellow again which will be nearly the same as last year, OK cool, but what’s different?” the teacher asks. “You’re telling us it’s nearly the same, could we have guidance for what is not the same? But that has been clear as mud.”

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On Aug. 5, Manitobans heard masks and social distancing would be recommended by the province when kids headed back to class.

Roughly three weeks later, the province changed course by re-implementing a province-wide mask mandate, which included schools.

Multiple school divisions in Winnipeg issued statements advising parents masks would be required before the province brought back the official mandate.

Read more: COVID-19: Manitoba brings back mask mandate, requires vaccination for some government employees

The elementary teacher said while communication hasn’t been clear, she’s excited to get back into the classroom and see her students, despite concerns she could still contract COVID-19.

“The kids in front of me, I’m nervous for them and I’m nervous for my own kids at home,” the teacher said.

Perner said she feels those same concerns, but added she has to trust people will do their part to keep her children safe when she’s not there.

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