Manitoba

Manitobans invited to town hall on province's return-to-school plan

Parents who want their voices heard on Manitoba's return-to-school plan are invited to take part in a telephone town hall with some high-profile decision makers.

School divisions release back-to-school strategies

Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen, left, and Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin are hosting a telephone town hall on Tuesday. (CBC/John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Parents who want their voices heard on Manitoba's return-to-school plan are invited to take part in a telephone town hall with some high-profile decision makers.

Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen and chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin are hosting the event on Tuesday, beginning at 6:45 p.m.

Anyone who wants to join in must first register through the provincial government's website

A recording of the town hall will also be available after for anyone who was unable to join but would like to hear what was discussed.

The province last week announced its guidelines for going back to school, but has left it up to individual divisions to design the details for their students.

School boards have said they will encourage masks but won't mandate their use. (Halfpoint/Shutterstock)

The plans for most school divisions are largely similar. 

Staff and students in grades 5-12 will be encouraged but not mandated to wear masks. They will attend in-school classes every day, five days per week.

Cohorts — groups of students who will be together throughout the school day and for the full week — will also be established.

They will be in the same classroom, eat their lunches together and take recess together. Recesses and lunches will be staggered for different cohorts.

At the high school level, students will attend every two or three days, with students balancing in-class and at-home learning.

Since the province released its guidelines last week, hundreds of teachers and parents have expressed frustration with what they see as lax protocols and have banded together to form an advocacy group and social media campaign called #SafeSeptemberMB.

They have an online petition with eight demands:

  • Publicly funded, school-supported instruction and assessment for all students, whether they are learning in the classroom or remotely. This requires sufficient staffing levels to not increase the workload of individual teachers.
  • School employees who want to work remotely should get what they need to support distance teaching.
  • Class sizes small enough to support physical distancing of two metres.
  • Make mask use mandatory for all teachers, staff and students, providing exemptions where appropriate.
  • Assess ventilation and/or filtration systems in all school settings and follow all recommendations for upgrades required.
  • Reinstate the mandatory two-week self-isolation order for all non-essential out-of-province travellers.
  • Provide full paid sick leave to all divisional employees who self-isolate while ill, who are awaiting COVID-19 test results or who are recovering from COVID-19, including substitute employees.
  • Hire additional supply teachers and educational assistants to cover any staff on leave.

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