Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen today announced Manitoba’s plan for the upcoming school year. While the goal for the 2020/21 school year is for all students to return to an in-class learning environment, Manitoba’s plan includes three scenarios, dependent on public health’s advice at the specific time:
- A full return with a relaxing of physical distancing measures.
- A return to schools with prioritization of kindergarten to Grade 8 students under current public health measures and ensuring two-metre distancing. In the event a classroom can’t ensure those two metres, the province is looking to maintain a one-metre space while establishing cohort groups that won’t mix. That will assist with contact tracing and prevent a full school closure in the event of a positive case.
- A limited reopening, which is what schools are in right now, with online and some small group in-person learning.
“Our members are anxious to return to their classrooms and have been eagerly awaiting the government’s plan,” said MTS president James Bedford. “This plan is a good first step in laying the framework for September, but there are certainly a lot of details that need to be worked out.”
Bedford raised concerns about the lack of details around physical education, music classes and vocational learning.
“We can all agree about the importance of physical education, arts and vocational classes in providing a well-rounded education,” said Bedford. “But there is no plan for ensuring that students can continue to access these programs, and that’s concerning.”
Bedford said that in the event these programs are not feasible, under the public health orders, teachers need advanced notice to prepare.
“If the phys ed teacher is told a week before school starts that they are now teaching science, that will be problematic,” said Bedford. “Teachers start preparing for their classes over the summer, long before they are back in school. A phys ed teacher can certainly teach science, but it is important that these teachers are given the appropriate time to make the switch and prepare.”
The province has asked school divisions to develop detailed reopening plans to be submitted to Manitoba Education based on the three scenarios. The province will confirm which scenario will be followed in the fall or before Aug. 1.