Manitoba parents question decision to have daycares open, others keep children home from school

Classes at all schools in Manitoba will be suspended starting next Monday, in hopes it will stop the spread of COVID-19. But some parents are choosing to keep their kids home already and questioning why the province hasn't closed daycares.

Health officials maintain schools are safe, risk of transmission in daycare even lower

Kaitlin Davey with her husband, Justin, and their children. She says she'll keep them at home this week due to concerns over COVID-19. All schools have cancelled classes starting March 23. (Provided/Kaitlin Davey)

Some Manitoba parents are questioning the province's decision not to close daycares, as classes at all schools continue for one more week before being temporarily suspended amid concerns of COVID-19.

Some parents have chosen to voluntarily keep their kids home from school and daycare starting Monday.

That's not an option for Mehjabin Sultana, an early childhood educator at a Winnipeg daycare and mom of an 11-year-old. She wants all day cares to be shut down, too.

"It does not make any sense. The daycare is a public place, too," she said.

"I don't know who is safe or not, even I don't feel safe to work at this moment," Sultana said.

Closing daycares still on the table

Health officials said Sunday they are considering closing daycares, but haven't made a decision yet.

That's in part because daycares tend to have fewer children than schools, meaning the chances of the virus spreading are lower, according to chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin.

Another concern for officials: a closure of daycares could further strain the medical system if parents who are lab technicians, nurses, and doctors are forced to stay home with their children.

"We know the impact on parents, especially parents in healthcare, might even be magnified," Roussin said Sunday.

Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, answers those questions. 2:03

Other parents will need to turn to daycare when schools close.

Once classes stop in a week, parent Sajed Haque said he'll have to send his son to daycare for the whole day.

"I'm going to work, my wife will go to work. He has to go to the daycare," Haque said, adding he'd prefer daycares shut down so his wife, who works at one, could stay home with their son.

Risk at school remains low: officials

The province maintains the decision to suspend classes next week is out of an abundance of caution, and the risk in schools remains low.

That's not reliable enough for mom Kaitlin Davey, who said she'll keep her six-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter home starting Monday, in part because her daughter has health issues.

"A lot can happen in a week. In my mind, I don't feel like I should be waiting and chancing it," she said.

Cancelling classes puts Manitoba 'way out ahead of this virus'

Roussin said officials wanted to give parents and the schools a week to make a plan.

"We've moved out of an abundance of caution to be way out ahead of this virus," Roussin said.

He says it's up to parents if they want to keep their kids home sooner, but the risk remains low, especially since all seven cases in Manitoba are all believed to be linked to travel.

Roussin said officials "acted quickly" when they made the decision to close schools within 48 hours of the first presumptive case of COVID-19.

"We can look at other jurisdictions that have had transmission ongoing for much longer: their schools are still open," he said. "Certainly the schools are safe."

About the Author

Marina von Stackelberg is a CBC journalist based in Winnipeg. She previously worked for CBC in Halifax and Sudbury. Connect with her @CBCMarina or