Coronavirus: Manitoba schools partially reopen for staff, programming

Classroom learning may be done for the remainder of the school year, but schools can partially reopen for staff and certain programming as part of phase two of Manitoba’s reopening plan.

Students will be able to meet with their teachers one-on-one or in small group settings for assessment, recovery learning, or planning for the upcoming school year.

“This is an opportunity, I think, with the tentative plan, to move in a way to help our young people transition effectively,” Premier Brian Pallister said Thursday.

“That would be absent if we don’t reopen schools to a small, limited degree, and that’s what’s being proposed in phase two.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Draft plan of Phase 2 released for Manitoba, but no date confirmed

Strict rules and protocols will remain in place, including physical distancing when possible and limited indoor capacity to 50 per cent.

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Schools will be able to be used for day camps, summer programming, and library use, with a maximum of 24 students per site. Multiple groups of 24 can be segregated throughout the day and will have to use separate exits and staggered drop-off schedules.

Students will also be able to use school computers or Wi-FI on a scheduled basis, and access counselling services. The province is also encouraging the use of outdoor equipment and playgrounds.

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Some parents say enforcing proper physical distancing with students will be tough.

“I think that’s going to be a challenge for everybody,” Winnipeg parent Jen Shapka said.

“Kids don’t have great hygiene, let’s be honest. So trying to keep kids away from their friends who are missing their friends will [be a challenge].”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Education Minister hopeful Manitoba schools to reopen in fall

The province is also proposing additional teaching days, repurposing professional development days, and starting the school year on Aug. 31, earlier than usual.

“There was some people texting me this morning, some of them had more questions than concerns,”Manitoba Teachers’ Society vice president Nathan Martindale said.

“But I said to them the same thing I’m saying now: that it’s a proposed plan, nothing is set in stone, and MTS as a stakeholder will come and talk to the government about what we feel is in the best interest of both our members, who we represent, and the students.”

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Shapka says she doesn’t believe the added school days will make up for the lost time.

“For younger kids, you’re not going to make up what has been lost by adding five more school days,” she said.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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