Manitoba delays in-person return to school, will start with remote learning Jan. 10

The Manitoba government is going to be taking in a phased-in approach for when kids return to school.

Kids were to return to class on Jan. 10, but the province announced Tuesday it will be starting with a one-week remote learning period to allow schools to put in enhanced COVID-19 measures.

Students of critical service workers in Kindergarten to Grade 6, along with high-risk students and students needing special learning in kindergarten to Grade 12 can attend school if no other care options are available.

The province said this extra week will give school divisions more time to implement plans for new measures and prepare for an expected staffing shortage.

Education Minister Cliff Cullen said child-care facilities that operate year-round will still be open and encouraged to prioritize children of critical service workers.

Other facilities that operate on the school calendar will provide services to children of critical service workers that need before and after school care.

“This extra week of remote learning will provide time for distribution of additional masks and rapid tests to schools across the province,” said Cullen, adding more than five million masks for both children and adults will be sent to schools.

“This phased-in approach will ensure that in-person learning will continue in the longer term for students.”

Dr. Jazz Atwal, the deputy chief provincial public health officer, said in-person learning is best for students but officials are still learning about the Omicron variant and how it impacts everyone, including children.

“This change will allow us more time to study the data we have and provide any needed additional advice to the education sector and families as we go forward,” he said in a news release.

Premier Heather Stefanson wanted to ensure that Manitobans understand that this delay in returning to class does not mean the province is closing schools.

“What we’re talking about is just extending the period of time to allow for the appropriate preparation to take place to ensure further safety based on this variant in the classroom setting,” said Stefanson.

Atwal added the delay is showing Manitobans the importance of school and education is for students.

“I have three kids in school. School is very important in my life and will be important in their life and it should be important in every Manitoban’s life,” said Atwal. “So we’re going to try to create, as best as we can, a safe environment for that.

“We’re trying to be as proactive as we can be, but there is a lot of things that happen and there is a lot of things that we have to deal with to mitigate issues and to be able to keep pushing forward our ability to try to keep Manitobans safe and adjust to how the virus is adjusting to our measures as well.”

The current plan will have students return to school on Jan. 17. 

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