Hanover School Division, nearby schools move to remote learning Tuesday as COVID-19 cases spike

The region has seen skyrocketing COVID-19 numbers in recent weeks, including test positivity rates of 30 per cent in the RM of Hanover and 40 per cent in the Steinbach health district.

Schools in area move to red, or critical level, as test positivity rate for region hits 30%

The move to remote learning is a preventative measure in response to increasing test positivity rates in Steinbach and the Rural Municipality of Hanover, the Hanover School Division said in a news release Friday. (Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

Manitoba's largest rural school division and nine surrounding schools will close their doors to virtually all in-person learning starting Tuesday, as schools in the region move to the red, or critical, level on the province's pandemic response system.

Students in the Hanover School Division will make the move to remote learning effective Tuesday, the province said in a news release Friday, along with several schools in the region as it faces a surge in cases of COVID-19.

"This change is being made in light of the widespread community transmission of COVID-19," the province said in a news release Friday. 

"The decision to move to critical (red) is not a reflection of school-based virus transmission."

The Hanover School Division serves roughly 8,500 students in nine Manitoba communities, including Blumenort, Mitchell and Steinbach.

That region has seen skyrocketing COVID-19 numbers in recent weeks, including test positivity rates of 30 per cent in the RM of Hanover and 40 per cent in the Steinbach health district, according to Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer, on Friday.

The other schools moving to red include one Division scolaire franco-manitobaine school, a funded independent school and seven non-funded independent schools, the province said Friday.

Schools still open Monday

Schools will stay open on Monday, the province said.

Where possible, schools will also remain open to kindergarten to Grade 6 students who are children of critical services workers, if their parents can't make alternative care arrangements, the province said. Those students will get the same teacher-led remote learning as their peers, but they can do it at school.

There may also be accommodation for students over the age of 12 whose parents are critical services workers, or who have disabilities or needs that mean they can't stay home on their own.

Critical services workers who identified in-class learning as required in a recent survey can still send their children to school on Tuesday, the province said.

Critical services workers include health-care providers, teachers and school administrators or support staff, child-care workers, law enforcement and corrections workers, first responders and direct social services and child protection workers. Other workers including front-line natural resource workers, gas station attendants, and grocery store staff might also qualify, the province said.

Priority for school accommodation will be given to children of health-care workers. Children of other critical services workers will be prioritized by divisions based on local needs and context.

In a news release Friday, the Hanover School Division said its 19 schools will continue to communicate in the coming days, the division said. Parents and guardians who have questions can also call their kids' schools on Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.