The Manitoba government is instituting two-weeks of remote learning for students in Grades 7 through 12 following the holiday break in an effort to prevent COVID-19 cases.
The mandatory move to at-home learning for older students will start Jan. 4, and parents of students in Kindergarten to Grade 6 can also move their kids to remote learning over the same time period if they choose, Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen said Wednesday.
“Current data indicates the risk of COVID-19 transmission in our schools remains low and we want to ensure the return to the classroom is as safe as practically possible,” said Goertzen in a government release.
“By moving our grade 7 to 12 students to remote learning for the first two weeks of the new year and offering remote learning options to kindergarten to Grade 6 students, we are reducing the risk that may be posed as a result of a change in students’ close contacts during the winter break.”
Half of Manitoba teachers prepared to quit or retire: union
The province says regular, in-person classroom learning will be available for Kindergarten to Grade 6 students, as well as for any Grade 7 to 12 students with special needs, during the remote learning period.
The switch to remote learning is scheduled to last until Jan. 15 and the province estimates it will keep nearly half of Manitoba’s student population home following the winter break.
Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief public health officer, has stated repeatedly that transmission in schools is low, with only a few outbreaks declared.
But since September, schools have had to follow strict social distancing guidelines and sanitation rules.
Hanover School Division, parents prepare for remote learning Tuesday
The province said Wednesday evidence has shown older students are more likely to both contract and spread the virus, because they have a larger number of close contacts.
Goertzen said Manitoba school divisions are equipped to provide remote learning, and added the province’s remote learning support centre will be available to help divisions and teachers.
To help cover the increased costs of the move to remote learning, Goertzen also said the province is opening up its $185 million Safe School Fund for divisions.
“The pandemic situation is evolving and the Manitoba government recognizes that our schools may face extraordinary funding pressures in the 2020-21 school year,” said Goertzen in a release.
Coronavirus: 100 teachers, 20 EA’s to be hired in Manitoba for remote learning assistance
Made up of $48 million in school divisions savings, $52 million in additional provincial funding, and $85.4 million in federal cash, the fund will be used to hire more staff, pay for new technology, and cover the costs of additional health and safety measures, the province says.
Manitoba has been reporting hundreds of new cases and multiple deaths from COVID-19 every day for weeks, despite strict restrictions closing non-essential businesses and banning large gatherings put in place Nov. 12.
Earlier in the day Wednesday health officials announced 277 new cases of COVID-19, as well as 14 additional deaths.
Since March Manitoba has recorded 17,384 cases and 342 deaths from COVID-19.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.