Province Working with School Divisions, Public Health to Welcome Students Back Safely: Goertzen

CLASSROOM LEARNING TO RESUME IN SEPTEMBER
FOR ALL MANITOBA KINDERGARTEN TO GRADE 12 STUDENTS

Classroom learning will resume on Sept. 8 for all students in kindergarten through Grade 12 at schools across Manitoba following last spring’s suspension caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen announced today.

“The province is welcoming students back to classrooms for the new school year, while working closely with school divisions and Public Health,” said Goertzen. “The best place for students is in class, giving them the full benefits of the tremendous work of Manitoba teachers and providing parents and caregivers with certainty that their children are receiving the best education possible.”

The Welcoming Our Students Back: Restoring Safe Schools guidelines have been developed in collaboration with the province’s kindergarten to Grade 12 COVID-19 response planning team, as well as with school divisions and public health officials. Manitoba school divisions and schools will follow these provincial guidelines to finalize and post division plans by mid-August. Accessible and transparent information is important as students, staff and families will have questions about COVID-19 and returning to in-class learning.

Learning in classrooms will be full-time for students in kindergarten through Grade 8 and for special-needs students in all grades, with five days of instruction per week. Some remote learning may be required for students in grades 9 to 12, based on the ability of high schools to implement necessary public health measures including physical distancing and the use of cohorts (designated groups of students) to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission, and to support contact tracing.

Three response levels have been developed to ensure that school divisions and schools are prepared to roll back from in-class learning based on public health advice. Divisions must ensure that all students learning remotely have access to technology.

“Manitoba Education and Public Health are working with divisions and individual schools to ensure that as many students as possible return to classroom learning full-time,” said Goertzen. “Divisions have been working diligently this summer on their individual plans for September, and are refining details for communication, screening, hand hygiene, physical distancing, the use of cohorts and outbreak management to be followed at every one of their schools.”

A total of $48 million in savings is available to ensure that schools are COVID-ready in September, the minister noted, adding the province is monitoring resource implications closely as part of its planning to ensure the safe return to classroom instruction in the upcoming school year.

“The need for child care is top of mind. The departments of Education and Families are working with school divisions and the child-care sector to ensure that families can continue to access child care within schools,” said Goertzen. “Both departments are working together to develop learning guidelines for children with special needs, as well as students at risk.”

Welcoming Our Students Back: Restoring Safe Schools is based on feedback provided by parents, caregivers, students and education stakeholders through an EngageMB survey that began in June. The minister noted tens of thousands of Manitobans have completed the survey, and the government will continue to collect and use this information in adapting plans while the public health situation evolves. Manitobans can visit https://engagemb.ca to share thoughts or ask questions.

In a joint statement, the Manitoba School Boards Association, the Manitoba Teachers’ Society, Manitoba Federation of Independent Schools, Manitoba Association of School Business Officials and the Manitoba Association of School Superintendents said, “We believe that collaborative planning is in the best interests of students, parents, and school staff. The goal is to have as many students as possible learning in classrooms this fall and throughout the coming school year. Maintaining a strong focus on the health, safety and well-being of students, staff, families and communities, we all agree the emphasis needs to be on getting students the in-person teaching and learning they need while making sure that safety is the top priority for everyone.”
For up-to-date information on COVID-19 in Manitoba, visit www.manitoba.ca/COVID19.

A comprehensive list of Manitoba government COVID-19 measures can be found at: https://manitoba.ca/bg/2020/04/covid19.html.

The Filipino Journal asked some Filipino parents on their thoughts on Restoring Schools and here is what they have to say:

“The government should wait until the vaccine is ready. Social distancing and proper sanitation would be an issue to the students.” – Joy Agustin
“Doing virtual is hard for me as a mom and as a “teacher at home”. I’m happy for my kids to be in class . It’s scary I know , but I am voting for in class schooling . I’m a dentist, I’m aware of all the protocols.”
– Watepin Clanza, mother of 2

“It’s risky and scary especially the numbers are continuously increasing. Keeping our hopes up that this improves our kids’ resiliency with constant change.”
– Andrew and Nariz Beloro, parents of 2

“Parang hindi pa time to send them sa classroom mas safe kung antayin nila magka-vaccine.”
-Ferdie, dad of 3

“Confident naman that the school will do the necessary measures to keep the children safe this fall.”
-Marien Mortel, mom of 3

“By reading the school division plan, I feel confident about it and specially we have low and manageable cases here. It brings a little bit of normality for the kids, it’s been fought last 4 months of school from home. It’s hard for me to be a teacher and working from home. The school division is already taking enough precautions like teachers will be going to rooms instead of students, different school breaks etc.”
– Arnold Capucion, dad of 2

“Di kami komportable siempre. Lalo na biglang lumaki ulit ang case dito sa tin. Kung di maiiwasan at di na mapipigilan ang pag-open sa school, parang mas gusto ko yung di sabay-sabay ang pasok sa school, alternate schedule na pag sa bahay lang diretso pa rin thru online classes.”
-Jeff Luna, dad of 2

” I am half-hearted.. coz i don’t know how they would strictly implement health and safety in the school, specially now that positive cases are increasing again. Parang balik sa square one. Like, I want them to go back to school if the province has sustained the low rate of cases. I hope the school divisions have a documented plan to share to the families way ahead of time to give assurance that it is indeed safe to go back to school. Para ba may knowledge din yung parents. And if may changes needed at least maaga pa lang magawan na ng paraan.”
– Jen Cabungcal, mom of 3