Coronavirus Updates

COVID-19 testing expanded | 28-04-2020

Effective immediately, the province is expanding testing criteria to any Manitoban with symptoms of COVID-19.

Those exhibiting mild symptoms including a cough, runny nose, sore throat and/or fever, are eligible for testing.

If you are showing symptoms of COVID-19 and meet testing criteria, please call Health Links–Info Santé at 204-788-8200 or (toll-free) at 1-888-315-9257 for more information.

Manitoba has no plans to reopen schools before September | 22-04-2020

Premier Brian Pallister said Manitoba has no plans to reopen public schools before the end of the school year.

“We do not want to risk a rebound effect,” he said. “All of us, with the love we have for our children, would be very, very concerned, I think, about moving back to a congregation or an assembly of young people in our province that might lead to a COVID(-19) case.”

Quebec is looking to reopen its schools in the coming weeks.

CERB expands eligibility | 15-04-2020

The federal government is expanding the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to better support those in need who did not qualify under the current rules.

To help more Canadians benefit from the CERB, the government will be changing the eligibility rules to:

  • Allow people to earn up to $1,000 per month while collecting the CERB.
  • Extend the CERB to seasonal workers who have exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to undertake their usual seasonal work as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Extend the CERB to workers who recently exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to find a job or return to work because of COVID-19.

These changes will be retroactive to March 15, 2020. More details will be posted on the portal shortly.

Teachers not part of layoffs | 14-04-2020

Teachers will not be affected by the Manitoba government’s proposed reduced work week for public sector workers.

At a meeting of public sector unions and government officials, it was confirmed that teachers along with child care workers and a number of other essential workers and services are not included in this plan.

The government proposed the temporary shortened work week in an attempt to minimize layoffs and lessen spending on non-essential resources, so that more resources can be redirected to frontline health care services.

Virtual meeting etiquette | 14-04-2020

Consider how you can contribute to a positive, efficient, and productive virtual meeting.

Read virtual meeting checklist here

Publishers waiving licence fees | 9-04-2020

Access Copyright and participating publishers are waiving licence fees for works being read by teachers to their students at home.

The group says it has received a number of questions from teachers about copyright around using material while teaching from home.

There are some guidelines it wants teachers to follow while using copyrighted material.

Full release here

Applying for CERB | 2-04-2020

The application form for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit will be available online as of April 6, 2020.

To avoid overloading the system, the government has prepared a schedule, inviting workers to apply on a specific day, according to their birth date. Please see below.

Read FAQs about CERB here

K-12 Classes Suspended Indefinitely | 31-03-2020

Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen announced today that while learning from home will continue, classes will be suspended in K-12 schools indefinitely.

Speaking at a news conference this morning, Goertzen and Premier Brian Pallister indicated the decision was made on the advice of Manitoba’s Chief Provincial Public Health Officer, Dr. Brent Roussin.

Final grades will be “baselined” using students’ academic standing on the last day of classes. Students must, however, be offered opportunities prior to the year’s end to improve their standing or to catch up on material they may have fallen behind on. Final exams will be cancelled, however report cards will be issued for all students.

Acknowledging that there are unique challenges associated with teaching different grade levels remotely, Goertzen said K-8 teachers are encouraged to use existing tools to connect with students and coach parents helping at home. Teachers of students in Grades nine to 12 will continue with online and distance teaching resources they have established and continue to explore.

The province is working towards solutions for those areas of Manitoba where distance learning is hampered by less than optimal internet service.

“This decision to suspend classes was not an easy one to make,” said Pallister. “We wanted to ensure continuity in the education of our children. We owe them that.”

On the potential for the school year to bleed into the summer months, Goertzen indicated it was not his preference. Summer, he said, would be an important time for Manitobans to recover.

“As minister of education I’m concerned for the mental health of our teachers.”

Goertzen spoke about his disappointment for the class of 2020, and his hope that schools and divisions could find creative means to celebrate the achievements of Manitoba’s Grade 12 students.

“It’s such a special time and I share the disappointment of students and parents who have worked for and looked forward to this occasion for so long. I want Grade 12 students to understand as well that we’re taking these steps because they have an amazing future ahead.”

Pallister added that the release of the K-12 Commission report is not a priority at this time. “Teachers are facing a monumental challenge right now. We have enough challenges without adding to them.”

Letter from James Bedford,
MTS President to Local presidents 
| 31-03-2020

I spoke with the Minister this morning prior to today’s announcement respecting the extension of suspension of classes for the balance of the school year. The Minister opened the conversation this morning with thanking all those in the school system, including members, who have been working very hard to continue learning from home. In particular, he spoke of the “creativity and dedication of teachers”. Obviously, we are appreciative of the Minister’s words.

I believe that the announcement speaks for itself, but I want to emphasize and add to a few of the points based on this morning’s discussion. The Minister recognized that the summer break was an important time for both students and their families as well as teachers, so the school year will not be extended into summer. He did emphasize that some form of learning assessment will have to be done in the fall to determine the need for “supplemental learning” as necessary. We shall provide more clarification once we know more.

The Minister spoke at length about current student achievement. Marks will be “baselined” from the last day of in school classes, but “opportunities to improve those marks must exist to provide incentives for continued learning.” He was clear that there will be no provincial exams this year, and that grade 12 students will graduate.

Lastly, on the issue of graduation, the Minister noted that this year is going to look much different for our graduating classes. He is anxious that the message to these students be a positive one, and that they will go on to do great things. I know of the creativity of our members, and I would encourage you to encourage members to share anything that they are doing to recognize graduates as the end of the school year draws near.

I view Minister’s announcement today as a positive one. Members will continue to be at work, albeit from home. Schools may not all remain open, that will be a Divisional decision, but our members remain at work, as will other employees of school divisions, and shall continue to be paid. Where connectivity of students is not great, the Province will look at utilizing distance learning options for students. The province is also looking at supporting student nutrition, more is likely on this in coming weeks.

As always, thanks for the hard work that you are continuing to do on behalf of all members.

James Bedford (he/him)
The Manitoba Teachers’ Society

Classes Suspended Indefinitely | 31-03-2020

The provincial government is suspending school indefinitely. In the event that the Public Health Officer deems it safe to return to school, the suspension will be lifted.

Teachers will continue teaching remotely, as they have been for the past week, and are expected to assign work, conduct assessments and prepare final report cards.

Recognizing that internet connectivity is an issue in remote communities, the province is looking at ways to provide resources for these students to ensure they can continue learning.

Meal programs are also on the agenda. The government is currently exploring ways to continue to provide food to Manitoba’s most vulnerable students.

More to come.

Back-to-school date might change | 26-03-2020

Parents and teachers are anxiously awaiting information on when class suspensions will be lifted.

No official announcement has been made, as the situation is constantly evolving, however based on recent comments by Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, it appears that the province will be extending the school suspensions.

“The way that things are moving, we haven’t really seen the sustained community transmission at this point. It’s difficult to comprehend a scenario where we would be returning people, lifting our social distancing strategies in the next few weeks.”

Important info for Substitute Teachers
Canada introduces Emergency Response Benefit
| 25-03-2020

Substitute teachers can apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), a taxable benefit that will provide $2,000 a month for up to four months for workers who lose their income due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

All Canadians who have ceased working due to COVID-19, whether they are EI-eligible or not, are able to receive the CERB.

CERB payments will begin within 10 days of application and will be paid every four weeks and be available from March 15, 2020 until October 3, 2020.

If you have already applied for EI and your application has not been processed, you do not need to reapply.

The portal for accessing the CERB will be available in early April

Read the full release here

WARNING: There is a text scam going around on the new emergency response benefit.
This benefit is not available until April 2020. Do not click on links received in text messages or emails, promising refunds. Do not enter your personal or financial information unless you are on a secure government site. The government’s website is the only place where you can apply for this benefit. MTS will share the information on how to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) once it is available.

Province reviews back-to-school date | 24-03-2020

The provincial government is reviewing the decision to reopen schools April 10.

Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, says it will depend on circumstances.

“That (April 10) was announced initially. We are reviewing that and all our decisions are going to depend on the dynamics we are seeing right now. If we are still seeing sustained community based transmission then we are going to act accordingly.“

MTS continues work-from-home efforts | 24-03-2020

The Manitoba Teachers’ Society is continuing its efforts to have all school divisions treat working-from-home procedures the same way.

General Secretary Roland Stankevicius has been in contact with both the Manitoba School Boards Association and Manitoba Association of School Superintendents.

While most, if not all, divisions have now acceded to health recommendations and are allowing staff to work from home, guidelines vary wildly.

For example one division has allowed teachers to work from home as they would in the building, another mandates that teachers keep daily logs of their activities and send them to their principals and/or superintendents.

“This is only a very small sample of the very wide range of divisional, departmental and other organization decrees and declarations we have received,” Stankevicius said in a letter to the two associations. “This discrepancy of direction and for reporting requirements is confusing and distorts what should be a full commitment to an effective health protocol during the pandemic.”

The Society’s position has been that only staff required for school buildings should be leaving their homes to attend a workplace at this time.

MTS wants the superintendants and school boards’ association to help in getting all divisions to adopt a consistent policy.

MSBA thanks teachers | 24-03-2020

The Manitoba School Boards Association has expressed its appreciation to public school teachers for their “incredible efforts in planning and executing the task at hand.”

Alan Campbell, president of the MSBA, said school boards have been in near constant contact with superintendents and government.

“However, the heaviest lifting in recent and coming days will be done by your incredible MTS members; the teachers and administrators who are at the front lines of adapting and delivering content to students who are no longer with them in their classrooms,” Campbell said in a letter to MTS.

“We will continue to do whatever we can in the coming days and weeks to ensure that Manitoba’s teachers are supported in their valuable work.”

YHA ceremonies cancelled: winners to be celebrated! | 23-03-2020

This year’s Young Humanitarian Awards night, which was scheduled for Wednesday, April 22nd at 7:00 p.m. in the Manitoba Theatre for Young People, has been cancelled. Winners have been chosen and are being notified. In the interests of public safety, we are exploring ways to recognize these caring humanitarian students through live-streaming and posts on and social media. Stay tuned for updates!

Manitoba declares state of emergency | 20-03-2020

Manitoba has declared a state of emergency. The public health order will go into effect at 4 p.m. today and will last for 30 days.

Schools in the province are supposed to go back in session on April 13. The duration of the state of emergency would bring us to April 17.

The government has responded to our request for clarification with the following statement,
“We have advised all School Divisions that the State of Emergency does not effect the current class suspension timelines. As this is a fluid situation, we will ensure to keep all major stakeholders aware of developments as they become available. “

Ontario, B.C., Saskatchewan and New Brunswick have all called a state of emergency over COVID-19.

Province of Manitoba News Release on State of Emergency here

Letter from MTS President James Bedford | 20-03-2020

This past week has been a remarkable one, an experience that all of us will remember for some time. The Society will now transition, just as members are doing, to a “work from home” status. I want to thank General Secretary Roly Stankevicius and his team—which, really, is every member of our staff—for making this possible. I am able to give you the assurance that members can continue to rely upon services from their union during this crisis period. Please encourage all members to continue to watch for updates on our various social media platforms and the MTS website. I cannot express how honoured I am to know that we have such talented and dedicated staff.

Vice President Nathan Martindale and I have been in the office all week, but we too will be working from home beginning next week. It is critically important for both of us that our support for members is reflected in our actions. I can assure you that contact channels for both of us remain the same, and we have procedures in place to ensure that, as Officers of the Society, we can meet and react as necessary over the coming weeks.

To each of you, it is difficult to express my gratitude in words. You have had to undertake the difficult and evolving conversations this week to ensure that “work from home” procedures are in place for your members. I know that this has not been easy, but I never doubted that you would rise to the task. When I have said publically that our members are dedicated professionals working in very difficult circumstances, I was not only thinking of members in schools, but also of you as Local Presidents and all that you were doing. Thank you.

Over the coming weeks I expect that you will continue to think of questions to ask, mostly regarding what the next weeks and months are going to look like for the business of the Society. I can assure you that those discussions have already begun, and as we make decisions we shall inform you. But if you have questions, do not hesitate to ask. We just may not have every answer immediately.

Allow me to leave you with a concluding thought. I believe that many more of the public know that we have always known—Manitoba’s public educators are extraordinary. When faced with a crisis, no matter how small or large, we rise to the occasion. Yes, we are only human, and have the same anxieties and hopes as everyone else, but we are also leaders within our communities and within this Province. In the words of Ace Burpee, “We Got This!”

James Bedford
President, MTS

Advice to MTS Members on working from home | 20-03-2020

The Manitoba Teachers’ Society advises members to adhere to the following principles while working from home: See the memo to MTS Members here

Province prefers teachers work from home | 18-03-2020

Earlier this week, The Manitoba Teachers’ Society called on the provincial government to follow the Public Health Officer’s direction on social distancing by allowing educators to work from home.

The government has responded with the following,

We are encouraging school divisions to follow health advice. Teachers, support staff and other personnel should be allowed to work at home, if at all possible.”

MTS president James Bedford said, “We are pleased with the decision from the government and expect school divisions to follow this recommendation and do what is in the interest of public safety to help minimize the spread of COVID-19.”

MTS calls for school closures, working-from-home ability | 16-03-2020

The Manitoba Teachers’ Society has asked the education minister to suspend work at all schools and allow teachers the ability to work from home.

See the MTS letter here

Information for teachers on travel insurance coverage | 16-03-2020

Blue Cross has issued a notice on group travel coverage for teachers and the impact of the Covid-19 crisis.

Manitoba Blue Cross Group Travel Coverage and COVID-19

How to manage anxiety during the COVID-19 outbreak | 16-03-2020

LifeSpeak interviewed emergency medical physician Dr. Zachary Levine to get answers to many questions surrounding the COVID-19. We also interviewed Clinical Psychologist Dr. Brooke P. Halpern in order to get answers to questions about managing anxiety during this uncertain time.

Click here to read this interview now: How to manage anxiety during the COVID-19 outbreak

Click here for: How to manage anxiety during the COVID-19 outbreak PDF

Important information concerning COVID-19 | 13-03-2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, questions are being asked about how absences from work will effect employers and employees.

The Manitoba Teachers’ Society has developed the following principles concerning potential workplace absence situations for members as follows.

Workplace Absence Situations

MTS suspends workshops till end of spring break | 12-03-2020

To support the local and global efforts with measures to protect and reduce the risk of infection and virus transmission, we are suspending all MTS sponsored meetings, seminars, workshops and conferences organized and/or hosted at McMaster House (or at remote locations) through to the end of spring break (April 6th, 2020).

At that time we will reassess these measures and any further developments in responding to the health pandemic.

MTS advises local associations to follow suit.

Manitoba reports first case of Coronavirus | 12-03-2020

Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living and public health officials announced that Manitoba has its first presumptive positive case of COVID-19. The individual was exposed to the virus through recent travel and is recovering at home, in stable condition.

While the greatest risk of severe outcomes include those over 65 years of age, those with underlying medical conditions and those with compromised immune systems, public health officials are also reminding all Manitobans to frequently wash their hands, cough and sneeze into their sleeves and to stay home when sick.

Any person concerned about their exposure to or risk of having COVID-19 should first call Health Links–Info Santé at 204-788-8200 or 1-888-315-9257 (toll-free) to ensure they receive medical advice appropriate to their specific health concerns.

Manitoba public health officials are advising schools and educational institutions to:

  • ensure ill staff and students stay home from school, and support those who are self-isolating at home to ensure they do not fall behind in their studies;
  • reduce large-group, crowded activities;
  • increase desk distance between students; and
  • consider implementing virtual or online classrooms, which reduces the number of people in classrooms and increases distance between staff and students.

The World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 a pandemic and public health officials are recommending social distancing strategies to all Manitobans to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Social distancing strategies for all Manitobans include:

  • minimizing prolonged (more than 10 minutes), close (less than two metres) contact between other individuals in public;
  • avoiding greetings that involve touching such as handshakes;
  • disinfecting frequently used surfaces;
  • following public health advice related to self-monitoring and self-isolation if you have travelled or have been exposed to someone ill with the virus; and
  • considering avoiding travel, crowded places and events, especially if you are at higher risk.

With spring break around the corner, Manitobans are strongly advised to review travel plans given the evolving risk throughout many parts of the world and Canada.

Nationally, the CTF/FCE will be sending a message to the federal government urging a measured response, recognizing that school environments can be conducive to contagion and that temporary shut downs of education facilities may be necessary in some cases.

The national union will be urging the federal government to work with provinces and territories to take measures to minimize the impact of the outbreak on the quality of education.

Government of Canada’s COVID-19 related travel advisories

Additional preparedness details

Manitoba Public Health