Manitoba

Remote learning to continue until end of June for Winnipeg, Brandon, Garden Valley, Red River schools

Schools in Winnipeg and Brandon, as well as those in the Garden Valley and Red River Valley school divisions, will stick with remote learning for the remainder of the school year, as the province continues to deal with high numbers of COVID-19 cases. 

Announcement comes 1 week after remote learning extended to at least June 7 for hundreds of schools

For a second year in a row, many Manitoba schools will end their school year in remote learning. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

All kindergarten to Grade 12 schools in Winnipeg and Brandon, as well as those in the Garden Valley and Red River Valley school divisions, will stick with remote learning for the remainder of the school year, as the province continues to deal with high numbers of COVID-19 cases.

However, beginning June 14, schools in remote learning will be able to reopen to small groups for in-person support, clinical support, assessments and transition planning, unless otherwise directed by the province, Education Minister Cliff Cullen said at a news conference Thursday. 

That will allow five to six students at a time, per classroom, to meet with teachers and "end the year on a positive note," Cullen said. The limited return will be optional, he said.

"While this is not the end of the year we all would have wanted, we still have half of Manitoba schools with students attending regularly," said Cullen. 

This is the second year in a row that some Manitoba schools have ended remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"I know this year has been difficult, but there have been many life lessons learned," Cullen told this year's graduates. "We know that there are many better times ahead, and the resilience you have shown will be useful in the years ahead."

WATCH | Education minister gives special message to this year's Grade 12 students:

Manitoba education minister gives special message to this year's grads

1 year ago
Duration 0:47
Manitoba Education Minister Cliff Cullen congratulated the graduating class of 2021 on Thursday as he announced hundreds of schools will remain in remote learning until the end of the school year. All kindergarten to Grade 12 schools in Winnipeg, Brandon and the Garden Valley and Red River Valley school divisions will stay remote, he said.

The province also announced that K-12 schools in Morden — part of the Western School Division, which borders the Winkler-area Garden Valley division — will move to remote learning on Monday. That move will be in effect until at least June 21.

Dr. Jazz Atwal, Manitoba's deputy chief public health officer, said the province's data shows that 21 per cent of overall COVID-19 cases in Manitoba are in school-aged children.

Winnipeg and Brandon schools were moved to remote learning on May 12, followed on May 18 by those in the Garden Valley division and the Red River division, which includes schools in communities south of Winnipeg such as Sanford, Starbuck and Morris.

That was initially set to last until at least May 30, but last week, officials extended remote learning until at least June 7 for those schools. Dauphin schools were to stay closed until June 9.

Asked why the province didn't simply extend remote learning until the end of the school year last week, Cullen said the province was optimistic that COVID-19 cases would go down and the extension wouldn't be necessary. 

"The reality is different. We're still facing challenges," he said.

Meanwhile, the option for a limited return for small groups will allow schools in remote learning to "get the assessments done, provide some closure and prepare for the transition for a lot of these students," Cullen said.

Remote learning challenges: parents

Sheryl Walker's seven-year-old son, Elliott, is in remote learning at Sister MacNamara Elementary School in Winnipeg.

Thursday's news was a little disappointing, she says, but she understands the rationale. 

Sheryl Walker says she gets the rationale behind keeping school doors closed, even if it's tough on students, like her son Elliott. (Walther Bernal/CBC )

She said she and her son are lucky in that she can provide him with the technology he needs to do classes from home, but points out that's not the situation for many.

"A lot of parents are low income — they can't afford this stuff, so their kids are relying on what the school gives them and what they can get, and sometimes its not enough for our kids," she said. 

T'ai Pu, who has two kids in school and is chairperson of Mulvey School's parent council, says having his kids in remote learning has been challenging financially for him in the last year. Having to be at home with his children has meant he hasn't been able to pick up as much work in the film industry. 

"There's a lot of people in my school district who are seriously struggling right now because they need to be at work," he said. 

But Pu said the teachers at his kids' school have been amazing at finding creative ways to get students engaged while learning remotely, and to keep them from feeling isolated. 

T'ai Pu says he's grateful to his kids' teachers for all the effort they've put into remote learning classes. (Walther Bernal/CBC )

"So for me, remote learning, as challenging as it can be, has actually been pretty phenomenal given the place that we're at right now," he said. 

Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said Thursday the province must sketch out a plan to ensure the students who struggled academically during the pandemic don't fall behind.

He also wants improvements to be made to school ventilation systems over the summer to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

"One way or another, COVID is still going to be around [in the fall] and there are still risks," he said.

Opposition NDP education critic Nello Altomare said it's the provincial government's fault that schools have to be learning remotely. He accused the Progressive Conservatives of failing to prepare for the pandemic's third wave. 

WATCH | Many Manitoba schools will end their year in remote learning:

Many Manitoba schools will end their year in remote learning

1 year ago
Duration 1:55
All kindergarten to Grade 12 schools in Winnipeg and Brandon, as well as those in the Garden Valley and Red River Valley school divisions, will stick with remote learning for the remainder of the school year, as the province continues to deal with high numbers of COVID-19 cases.

Nearly 400 schools continue to teach online, though some rural schools remain open to in-person learning.

As of Tuesday, 170 schools had one or more reported cases of COVID-19. There have been 335 positive school cases in the past two weeks, with nearly 90 per cent of those involving students, the provincial government's school cases dashboard says.

Though Manitoba's overall case counts appear to have plateaued recently, the seven-day average remains high, at about 320 as of Tuesday. Manitoba's overcrowded hospitals are expected to see patient numbers continue to rise in the coming weeks.

More from CBC Manitoba:

With files from Ian Froese

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