Canada

Manitoba remote learning announcement was ‘untimely’: parent group

WINNIPEG —
Some Manitoba parents think the province needed to be more proactive when it comes to the spread of COVID-19 in schools, and waited too long to announce the shift to remote learning.

“We saw the numbers rising, parents have been through this already once before,” said Luanne Karn with Parents for Public Education.

“We could’ve had better contact tracing to deal with the outbreaks and exposures at our schools in April, and that could’ve prevented the size of this third wave that we’re seeing in our schools.”

On Sunday, the Manitoba government announced that schools in Winnipeg and Brandon would be shifting to remote learning as of Wednesday. The period of remote learning will be in place until May 30.

Karn described this announcement as “untimely,” saying the province should have announced plans weeks ago.

“This tsunami of the third wave, we could see it coming, and instead they were not proactive at all,” she said.

“They were very reactive in the last minute and not supporting parents, families, and teachers.”

She said parents and teachers are furious about the timing of the announcement, which came two days after the province announced its latest round of public health orders.

“It was, I believe, an attack on parents and teachers to first not mention their plans Friday night at the press conference and then to bring it up on the afternoon of Mother’s Day,” Karn said.

WHAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN DONE?

James Bedford, president of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society, said one thing missing from the equation is priority vaccination for those working in schools.

“I think in the minds of some, had that vaccination occurred, perhaps we could have delayed the closing of our schools at this point,” he said.

Bedford said school staff wanted an announcement on a viable vaccination plan several weeks ago.

“We were talking about this being an essential part of the equation to keep our public schools open until the end of June,” he said.

Karn said she wished the province would have highlighted some of the programs being offered that could be helpful to some parents, including the federal caregiver grant.

CONCERNS AND DIFFICULTIES

Bedford said one of the difficulties for schools right now is reporting the cases, as this is falling on the shoulders of the principals and vice-principals who have a lot of other work.

“There’s a huge lag time, it would appear, between cases occurring and cases being reported,” he said.

He noted there’s also been more transmission of COVID-19 within students and staff at public schools.

“I can safely say I’ve spoken directly to more members who are actually ill with COVID in the last few weeks than I certainly did at any point in the fall,” Bedford said.

For parents who are concerned about the move to remote learning on Wednesday, Bedford assured them that school divisions have been working hard to address any issues surrounding technology.

“I suppose the message I would send to parents is that beyond parents, nobody cares about the safety, the well-being, the education of your children more than your children’s teachers do,” he said.

“This is difficult for them and they want to do everything possible to ensure this is a positive school year for their students.”

– With files from CTV’s Katherine Dow and Nicole Dube.


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