January 4, 2022
Today Premier Heather Stefanson and Education Minister Cliff Cullen announced that Manitoba schools will move to remote learning for one week, January 10 to 17, 2022. The temporary measure is intended to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 after the holidays and ensure a safe and sustainable return to in-person learning.
The decision was made in consultation with education stakeholders, including MTS, who raised concerns about rapidly rising case counts and the highly infectious nature of the Omicron variant.
“We’re pleased that the government is listening. We’re grateful for that,” says MTS vice president Nathan Martindale. “But dialogue is one thing, action is another. We’re more focused on what the government is going to do. Teachers want to teach in schools but need to be confident that school divisions have adequate resources, including an appropriate supply of N95 masks, rapid tests, and improved ventilation systems for schools.”
Martindale wonders how the government will do that.
“How is this government assuring teachers and students that they will in fact be safer when they return to in-person learning? Our concern after January 17 is about a return to hybrid and blended learning because physical distancing within the constraints of many buildings is not achievable. Physical distancing wasn’t possible before. What has changed in our schools that makes it possible now?”
He adds that in order for in-person learning to take place, teachers need to be healthy and available. Staffing our classrooms had been enormously challenging prior to Omicron’s arrival, and the increasingly infectious nature of the variant is expected to result in ongoing staff shortages.
“We have always stressed that the best place for students to learn is in the classroom with their teachers. A phased-in approach to a return to learning—recommended by our public health officials—is prudent and reasonable. As always, we respect the guidance of public health officials and appreciate the dialogue we’ve had over the holidays as education stakeholders.”
Minister Cullen also took the opportunity today to announce an additional $80M in education funding for the 2021-22 school year.
“It’s good to hear about government investment in education,” Martindale says. “I hasten to add, however, that it’s about time. For several consecutive years, “increases” in education funding have failed to keep pace with both inflation and enrolment. We will reserve judgment on the commitment of this government to channel investment directly into our classrooms and fully fund public education.”
Watch mbteach.org and MTS social media channels for updates as they are available.