Manitoba not considering remote learning as pandemic’s third wave grows

WINNIPEG — As the third wave of COVID-19 washes over the province, Manitoba health officials say they are not planning to move schools to remote learning despite variants of concern popping up in education settings.

On Monday afternoon at Miles Macdonell Collegiate, a steady stream of masked students exited the building to head home. It is the standard routine despite three students contracting COVID-19 last week, at least one of which was a variant of concern.

Public Health said the cases were acquired outside of the school and no transmission has been found, but for parents it is still worrisome.

“It concerns me as a parent, yes. Really we are stuck in this virus and there’s nothing we can do,” said Chad Ramsay, who was picking up his son from school.

“We want to interact with our children and our grandchildren, so something like this is a little concerning,” said Dwight Gibson, who was picking up his grandchildren.

In an email to CTV News, Kelly Barkman, superintendent and CEO of the River East Transcona School Division, said he believes the best place for students to learn is in their school.

“We know that COVID-19 is in our communities, and our schools are part of those communities. The school community and the community at large needs to be empathic and understanding as we all face the third wave coming our way,” a written statement from Barkman said.

“We are committed to open, transparent communication with all parents/guardians and have–and will continue to– encourage our community to follow public health orders and fundamentals.”

The school division said students are contracting the virus outside of school, a claim backed by Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer.

“The most quickly growing cohort of cases is that 10 to 19 age group and most of this is not gathering within schools. It’s gatherings outside of schools,” Roussin said.

As Manitoba shows signs of a third wave, the province is not planning to send students to remote learning.

“So we’re certainly not taking anything off the table, but right now we are trying to change our direction with trying to keep the kids in school,” said Roussin. “We think there’s a lot of benefit to that.”

As students continue with in-class learning, families are left with mixed feelings.

“It’s tough,” Ramsay said, “As a kid with this remote learning, it’s a different type of learning today.”

Dr. Roussin said precautions inside schools are working. He said it’s important the 10 to 19 age group follows the fundamentals to keep cases low. 

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