Manitoba needs to fix 'disorganized mess' that is pandemic education plan, says mom and teacher

Manitoba's approach to education during the coronavirus pandemic "has been a disorganized mess at best — and an absolutely embarrassing dumpster fire at worst," says parent and music educator Domanie Billinghurst-Schadek.

Province needs to learn ABCs of reopening schools during pandemic, says Domanie Billinghurst-Schadek

The province's efforts to save money have come at the expense of the students, parents and education workers, says Winnipeg parent and educator Domanie Billinghurst-Schadek. (BlurryMe/Shutterstock)

What I've seen regarding public education in Manitoba during this pandemic has been a disorganized mess at best — and an absolutely embarrassing dumpster fire at worst. 

In my opinion, this government is so concerned about balancing its budget that it's trying to save money at the expense of our kids. 

They haven't seemed to make any standardized decisions regarding how to ensure accessibility to all kids in each school or division, let alone across the province. 

Instead of consistently using educational assistants (EAs) to reach individual kids and work with them online, or use the EAs to assist teachers in creating and distributing work packages to kids, they worried more about saving a few dollars — and hundreds were laid off. 

The time that children have been out of school has been squandered, without much planning for how to navigate this or how to enable teachers to actually teach their kids online consistently. 

Teachers have been asked to repeatedly reinvent their entire teaching curriculum on a whim, with the brunt of the teaching actually falling on the parents' shoulders, or on the kids to work independently. 

The forest is on fire — stop praying for rain and get to work on putting it out.- Domanie Billinghurst-Schadek

Some kids have regular daily online classes with their teachers, and some have none. 

Some parents receive an overwhelming amount of email correspondence with website logins, sign-in information, worksheets to be printed — but no online teaching is happening. 

Some teachers are doing an amazing job at creating lesson plans — but without any plan for delivery (not their fault). 

And now, teachers are being sent back into the classroom, some supposedly to resume regular classes, some for individual or small group work, some for assessments, some for recovery learning, with nine days notice. 

Here they are, being asked to reinvent their wheels all over again.

Let this year go, focus on fall

Here's what I think should be happening: 

1. They need to let go of this year.

You do not have time to meet, assess, plan and implement any sort of learning over the next 30 days — while creating any sort of effective plan for the following school year. 

2. The focus should be on September. 

This province needs to get itself together and have three solid plans ready to be implemented at the drop of a hat. This includes a "business as usual" plan, a "100 per cent distance learning" plan, and some hybrid of the two. The plans should be cohesive, inclusive and accessible. 

3. Distance learning must include actual online classes that are scheduled and accessible to all. 

In places where kids don't have technology, it needs to be provided. If that isn't possible, then reasonable at-home support must be implemented, with printed work and phone meetings with teachers or EAs. 

4. Just as funds are being redirected into health care, funding needs to be redirected to invest in education. 

Cutting here is not acceptable. I really don't give a lick about our debt right now. The forest is on fire — stop praying for rain and get to work on putting it out. 

5. Stop talking about things until you actually have something specific to talk about. 

We might go back Aug. 31?  No. Either do it or don't. 

Justify your decision with a solid plan — and spell it out. What will you accomplish in that time that would outweigh extending the longest term of the school year and potentially burning out your staff, students and parents?

6. Create and implement a plan for next fall that assumes this school year was finished on March 13

Anything that was given to students after that was done so inconsistently that one cannot assume anybody learned it effectively. 

What learning concepts and tools did students therefore miss out on, in order for them to understand concepts presented in the next grade level? 

How are you going to include these concepts into next year's curriculum? 


If a bunch of administrators or policy makers are the only ones making the decisions, you will fail. 

You need input from those who are living this mess. Period. 

'Furious, frustrated' with lack of planning

As an educator, I am appalled at what this province has managed to not accomplish during this time. You've had eight or nine weeks to get it together and you have not

As a parent, I am furious, frustrated and exhausted at the lack of planning, ingenuity and guidance from the province's policy makers. 

The teachers are doing the best they can, and from the conversations I've had with both colleagues and friends they are largely on their own. 

Realistically, they have been working their butts off to get information to parents, but many of us are left to do the teaching of that information on our own, just to be told now that the kids will be assessed. 

They haven't been able to use any sort of creative problem-solving to tackle the issue of actually educating our children.- Domanie Billinghurst-Schadek

Don't even get me started on this nonsense about sending report cards home this June. What a bunch of garbage that is — a complete waste of valuable time. 

What exactly is being assessed? Our abilities to cope in this mess? 

Give me a break. 

In my opinion, Manitoba is so stuck inside the box that they haven't been able to use any sort of creative problem-solving to tackle the issue of actually educating our children properly. 

Stop worrying about the rules, get out of the freaking box and FIX IT. 


An Exhausted, Irritated Parent Who Also Knows a Thing or Two About Education in a Non-Conventional Way

This column is part of  CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.


Domanie Billinghurst-Schadek is a graduate of the University of Manitoba. She is a wife and mother to two tiny humans and three dogs. She is proud to be a music educator in Winnipeg and dedicated to making arts education accessible to everyone.


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