Coronavirus: Winnipeg students, parents say it’s time to let bands play together

After nearly a year of online band practice, students and parents say they’re tired of being left out of the conversation when it comes to easing coronavirus restrictions.

Grade 12 student Rachelle Lambert said she doesn’t want to practice playing her alto saxophone at home alone anymore.

“Not being able to rehearse with friends and rehearse with my peers has been incredibly difficult,” Lambert said.

Currently at her school, wind instruments are not allowed.

Lambert said she has done research and found band practice, with wind instruments, can be done safely.

She already has an instrument cover on her alto saxophone, which is meant to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“No one really seems to be paying attention to that and I feel like us as students aren’t being listened to,” Lambert said.

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Read more: Coronavirus pandemic impacting Alberta music classes this fall

Dozens of parents from several school divisions have now come together and are calling on the province to either lift restrictions or show some type of scientific evidence as to why wind instruments can’t be played in schools.

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Parent Sheri-Lynn Skwarchuk said none of the parents have been able to get a response from the Manitoba government.

“Give me a solid reason why this cannot resume and I’ll be fine with that because I want my daughter to be safe,” Skwarchuk said.

She said the restrictions on band practice is causing mental health issues among students.

Skwarchuk is also confused because other school sports don’t appear to be facing the same type of restrictions.

“Volleyball, basketball and many other sports are allowed in the gyms of the schools,” she said.

Read more: Music, gym and COVID-19: How non-core classes will operate in Ontario schools

During a press conference on Monday, Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer said public health orders don’t apply to schools.

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“There isn’t really anything in our public health orders, per se, that disallow this, but we provide a lot of feedback, a lot of recommendations to schools,” Roussin said.

When asked specifically what advice he would give music teachers wanting to resume band practice indoors, he encouraged them to “go through the typical channels” to get advice, but noted playing wind instruments and singing can increase the risk of transmission.

“We’re all working together to decide what’s the best way to approach this,” Roussin said.

The superintendents of both the Louis Riel School Division and Pembina Trails School Division said they have no plans to lift band restrictions until the province tells them otherwise.

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