Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister today announced that teachers will have access to rapid testing in January to coincide with the post-holiday return to school. He said that teachers and members of a school’s support staff can be tested twice per month until the end of the school year.

“We have been asking the government to extend rapid testing to teachers since the summer said MTS President James Bedford. “Teacher workload and stress levels have been negatively impacted by long waits for COVID results. It’s unfortunate that it took the government this long to act, but we are pleased that it has finally happened.”

Bedford said that teachers are on the frontlines of education, and while the government acknowledges the importance of teachers, it has been slow to enact protections for teachers.

“Teachers were issued expired PPE. We asked that masks be mandated for all students in schools,” said Bedford. “We asked for reduced class sizes to allow for two-metres of physical distance, and the response was to have teachers run between classes.”

Bedford said the province continues to disrespect teachers with its latest remote-learning winter plan.

“If it’s unsafe for high school students to be in schools, then it’s unsafe for K-6 students to be in school,” he said. “Teachers are not babysitters. They are professionals and experts in their field, who play a vital role in the education of our young people. They have the same rights to safety as other Manitobans.”

He said that rapid testing will keep qualified teachers in the classroom, but the government must do more to address teacher safety and workload, or any gains made through access to rapid testing will be short lived.

“There are a number of unreasonable demands being placed on teachers, and this situation is unsustainable.”