Parents and school divisions were left scrambling Sunday after the province announced all Winnipeg and Brandon schools from K-12 would move to remote learning starting Wednesday.
Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief medical health officer and Education Minister Cliff Cullen made the announcement at a rare press conference Sunday afternoon.
Nathan Martindale, VP of the Manitoba Teachers Society, said it was “too bad” things transpired this way Sunday.
“The Manitoba Teachers’ Society has called for a move to remote (learning) in Winnipeg and affected regions for a little bit now. So we’re happy to see that this is happening,” he said.
“But it’s maybe should have been done earlier. And we said that this would be the quickest way to protect as many teachers, student and community lives as possible.”
Martindale said teachers are “absolutely stressed out, but they’re professionals” and will do their best for students over the next days and weeks.
“One of the things that are impacting the mental health of our members is this ridiculous wait for prioritization for teachers, for vaccinations,” he added.
MTS, teachers and divisions alike have been calling for teachers to be placed on the priority vaccination list since vaccines became available in Manitoba.
MLA Nello Altomare (Transcona), the NDP critic for education, said teachers are frustrated about the entire situation.
They’re frustrated because this government hasn’t respected them from the beginning,” he said.
“Couple that with the vaccination fiasco, this, Bill 45 and restrictions on collective bargaining. All of these pieces send clear signals … that this government doesn’t value them.”
Liberal leader Dougald Lamont agreed.
“The move to shift to remote learning for Winnipeg and Brandon comes late,” he said.
This should all have happened days ago, and the government should be prepared with a major new round of emergency funding for families, schools, and businesses to prevent a wave of business closures.”
Cullen said the province has been working with teachers and school divisions since the pandemic started.
“There was an alert, pretty, pretty clear alert on Friday that something was going to happen in terms of potential changes at schools,” said Cullen.
“So once we’ve been able to firm up what those changes are, notification will be going out today to all impacted schools and school divisions.”
Asked whether parents should keep their children home Monday or Tuesday, Cullen said that was up to parents.
“There may be resources that students will want to pick up over the next day or two … teachers may need some extra prep time to prepare material as well,” he said.
“I know it will create extra workload. There’s no doubt about that. But we do appreciate what the teachers are going (through) in this regard.”
Learning will continue
Pembina Trails School Division superintendent Ted Franzen said no matter what happens over the next several weeks, students will still get their education.
“We have an online program for kids called Seesaw, as well as Microsoft teams,” said Franzen. “So we have a direct link to students to support (them).
“Learning will continue, and I’m asking all parents to continue working with our teachers.”
Parent Tim Webster, who has two teens, said he’s frustrated by Sunday’s announcement.
“Disappointed. This was avoidable,” said Webster, who said he has been advocating for remote learning since September to help prevent transmission in schools.
“No one listened, no one believed us … and here we are.
“My heart goes out to all of the teachers and learners right now … take a deep breath, it’s going to be OK.”