Manitoba school divisions working on plans to bring students back to schools

Manitoba school divisions are exploring their options when it comes to reopening schools during Phase 2 of the province's reopening plan. Global News

In Manitoba’s second phase of its reopening plan, there’s a roadmap for getting some students back to the classroom.

Even though classroom learning will remain suspended for the remainder of the school year, the province says schools will be able to reopen for staff and specific programs.

READ MORE: Seven Oaks superintendent looking forward to possible Manitoba school reopenings

According to the plan, students would be able to meet with teachers in a small group or one-on-one for student assessments or clinical or therapeutic services.

Students would also be able to access Wi-Fi and school equipment.

There is still no date set for when Phase 2 would be implemented, but the province has said it won’t happen before June 1.

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The Winnipeg School Division wrote on its website that the start of Phase 2 does not mean a return to normal and that “in-class instruction en masse continues to be cancelled.”

“While teachers and support staff will be back in schools on a day-to-day basis, students will only be allowed into the school by invitation. We request that parents and guardians refrain from entering the school unless invited to do so, by appointment, with their child’s teacher,” the website reads.

Radean Carter, Senior Information Officer, with the Winnipeg School Division says they hope to meet with each student before the end of June.

“It’s also a chance to do assessments to see where students are and definitely to connect with those students who haven’t been engaged in the home learning we need to make sure we’re getting them in to see where they’re at and what their needs may be.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus — Manitoba schools partially reopen for staff, programming

Seven Oaks School Division superintendent Brian O’Leary told 680 CJOB he’s looking forward to seeing kids have the chance of some degree of a return to normalcy.

“We’d like to get almost all of our students — especially the younger ones — in for some time, just to get back to school and feel optimistic about the future and a return to normal,” he said.

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“(Teachers can) get a sense of where kids are at, connected with kids again and be better able to plan for the kids’ return in the fall.”

On the Louis Riel School Division’s website, superintendent Christian Michalik said the division isn’t planning one-on-one sessions just yet.

“These potential meetings will be scheduled and determined once the Restoring Services Phase 2 is approved for implementation,” the website reads.

The St. James-Assiniboia, Pembina Trails and River East Transcona school divisions say they’re working to sort out what the announcement from the province on Thursday means for their schools.

Click to play video: 'Association of Parent Councils on partial reopen of schools' Association of Parent Councils on partial reopen of schools
Association of Parent Councils on partial reopen of schools – May 22, 2020

Manitoba Teachers’ Society President James Bedford says teachers were surprised to hear about reopening plans.

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“It just seems to be a very, very sudden change,” he said.

“This is a disruption that’s actually going to cause them extra time and extra effort and slow down the emergency remote teaching and learning. It seems to me when you have a process that’s working and working better all the time why do we need to disrupt the process?”

Bedford says after some staff were laid off he doesn’t know if schools have enough time to bring back cleaning staff before June 1.

“I think we are all concerned about ensuring the safety for anybody working in a school or going in and out of the school. What are the protocols? Are these schools sanitized?”

The province is also proposing additional teaching days for the upcoming school year to make up for missed time in the classroom.

School may start earlier on Aug. 31, and some non-instructional days could be repurposed as classroom dates.

“Everybody’s juggling challenges: the challenges of remote learning, the challenges of missing classmates and co-workers and colleagues. The challenges that are very real for all of us in this system. And we want to make sure, as part of Phase 2, we look at additional ways to assist young people,” Premier Brian Pallister said on Thursday.

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