Province wide School Shutdown

Manitoba students will not be going to school for three weeks, starting March 23.

The closure will include two regular weeks of school, along with spring break sandwiched in the middle. Schools will still remain open March 16-20.

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The announcement was made by Minister of Education Kelvin Goertzen at a news conference March 13.

Goertzen was joined by Premier Brian Pallister, Minister of Health Cameron Friesen and Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin.

"What we're having to do is choose between reaction or proaction," Pallister said.

"We can err on the side of caution or err on the side of delay. After discussions, we've decided to err on the side of caution."

Pallister said he had spoken to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier in the day. The provincial move follows an announcement from Ontario that the province will be closing schools due to COVID-19 concerns.

"My confidence [is bolstered] that as a nation, we are dealing with the issue and in an open in a proactive way," he said.

"Here in Manitoba, I am very thankful for the work of our personnel in our health care facilities and elsewhere and our government officials for their work as well."

Teachers will be asked to work their normal hours and prepare lessons for students to complete at home.

Pallister compared the situation to provincial action another typical act of nature – flooding.

"We live in a floodplain and we all know there's water coming down the Red River in the spring, there's water coming down the Assiniboine," he said.

"All of us know that there's a COVID-19 virus coming our way. We all know that. The question isn't whether it's coming or not. The question is, is it all coming at the same time."

Goertzen said he hoped the school year will end at the normal time. Goertzen immediately left the conference to attend the Manitoba School Boards Association (MSBA) annual convention and meet with school division superintendents from across the province.

Pallister said the pending school closures will be done out of an abundance of caution.

"We believe that our schools are safe, however, the experience in other provinces and other parts of the world tells us that proactive measures lessen the impact of the spread of COVID-19 and lessens the negative impact on individuals," he said.

"Through this suspension, we're acting with an abundance of caution to lessen the effects of COVID-19 on Manitoba and Manitobans as a whole."

The province expects students to return to normal classes April 13, but officials did not rule out extending the closure.

© Virden Empire-Advance