Manitoba students will return to school in September, and distancing will be recommended along with masks.
Dr. Joss Reimer, head of the province’s Vaccine Task Force, held a briefing for media Thursday before chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin and Education Minister Cliff Cullen made it official 90 minutes later.
Masks and distancing will still be recommended to the “greatest extent possible,” according to officials.
Schools will begin in the caution level or yellow on the pandemic scale, but schools will have to plan to implement public health protocols if needed.
A shift to remote learning will be a last resort. Students grade K-6 will start in cohorts.
Reimer said there will be in-school vaccination programs this fall.
The education minister’s office said school boards are responsible for prioritizing their capital projects such as ventilation. Cullen’s office said school divisions and independent schools reported spending a total of approximately $790,000 in ventilation operating/= and maintenance costs during the 2020/21 school year.
“These costs were incurred as a result of guidance provided by Public Health specific to improving the air quality in schools, including the need to have ventilation systems operating more frequently than usual, duct cleaning, purchase of filters, etc,” a spokesperson said.
Cullen’s team also said the province invested $12.3 million on ventilation capital upgrades for eight school projects last year and there are currently six new ventilation upgrade projects scheduled for the upcoming school year.
Last year, students were initially sent back to classrooms with students in Grade 9 and higher working heading to school every other day.
There were strict mask, distancing and sanitation protocols, and student activities like music and band were curtailed.
Some concerned parents decided not to send their child to school at all, either taking a full-time remote option or homeschooling.
When the third wave hit in October, however, students were forced back into remote learning.