School divisions shut down playgrounds to slow spread of COVID-19
'The equipment that we have in our playgrounds is a very high-touch area'
Signs warning children not to use playground equipment are going up across Manitoba, as school divisions take steps to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The move follows a request from the Manitoba School Board Association that they close play structures during the global pandemic of the coronavirus.
"It's a really responsible move to take, because the equipment that we have in our playgrounds is a very high-touch area," said Radean Carter, chief information officer with the Winnipeg School Division.
"It's also a gathering place.… You can't really play in a play structure and maintain that good physical distance that's being recommended by the chief medical officer."
The Winnipeg School Division started hanging signs and removing swings at its 89 playgrounds Tuesday morning, Carter said.
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Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer, has instructed people to stay home as much as possible and maintain a two-metre distance from others while in public.
Community and school play structures can be fun for children under normal circumstances, but they should be avoided to ensure their safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please feel free to use the open spaces next to play structures to engage in and play with your kids! <a href="https://t.co/ap48Vhr63L">pic.twitter.com/ap48Vhr63L</a>—@MBSchoolBoards
Carter said she hopes parents and families abide by the closures.
"We're really relying on parents to help to enforce this," she said.
'Natural extension' of school closures: MBSA
The directions to school divisions from the Manitoba School Boards Association has been that all playgrounds and play structures on public school property should be closed as quickly as possible, in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Other school divisions posting playground closures include Winnipeg's Pembina Trails School Division and River East Transcona School Division.
Brian O'Leary, superintendent of the Seven Oaks School Division, said in a text Tuesday morning that the division will post caution signs on its playgrounds but can't police a closure.
Outside of Winnipeg, Brandon School Division and Interlake School Division also have posted closures.
Playground closures are a "natural extension" of school closures already in place across the province, said Alan Campbell, president of the Manitoba School Boards Association.
Manitoba schools are closed to students as of this week. Right now, the closure is slated to last until April 13.
Campbell said the playground closure likely will last at least that long, and possibly longer.
"The thought process, I think, for school boards is it doesn't make any sense to have an area on a public school property — or any playground, for that matter — where parents can sit together on a bench in relatively close proximity and watch their kids play together in very close proximity, on whatever the equipment is," he said.
"That's all the opposite of what we're trying to achieve here with social distancing or physical distancing."