The Manitoba government is mandating a two-week remote learning period for Gr. 7 to 12 students and offering the same remote learning period for kindergarten to Gr. 6 students. The announcement came Wednesday afternoon.
This two-week remote learning period will begin Jan. 4, 2021, following the regularly scheduled holiday break. It’s another precaution against the spread of COVID-19.
After a meeting with provincial officials Wednesday afternoon, Superintendent Barry Pitz said, “The Government is attempting to be proactive as they anticipate the rise of transmission during the Christmas break.”
After the Province was declared at Red (critical) level, Manitoba schools remained at the Orange level, unless they had COVID-19 outbreaks such as Reston did. Reston went to Red, and was closed for two weeks to stop the spread in the school and community. Reston re-opened earlier this week and returned to Orange.
While Virden, Oak Lake and Elkhorn schools have been almost completely free of known COVID cases, they are under the provincial mandate.
Pitz says, “I don’t think it hurts to be safe. At high school, remote learning was always an option with the onset of the pandemic. We began with all kids in class.”
However, when the province moved into Orange, it became the administration’s responsibility to make it possible for all students to maintain a two-metre distance. Otherwise they needed to go to remote learning or a blend of in-school and remote, having half the students on alternate days.
Reston School, by turning the gym into a classroom, could accommodate all their students and keep the distancing. Virden Collegiate couldn’t do that and adopted a blended model. Elkhorn School (high school) also went to alternate day attendance.
Now, students in Gr. 7 to 12 will be learning at home, remotely for a two-week period from Jan. 4 to 15. It will be optional for K – Gr. 6 students to remote learn if families wish to keep their children at home following the holiday break; but the schools will be open to K - Gr.6 students for classroom learning.
Regular, classroom learning will be available for any Gr. 7 to 12 students with special needs that must be accommodated in the school or classroom setting.
This two-week remote learning period for Gr. 7 - 12 will keep close to half of the student population in Manitoba at home following the winter break.
Evidence suggests that older students have a higher incidence of contracting the virus, a larger number of close contacts and are more likely to transmit the virus to others as a result. Moving this group to remote learning will reduce the risk of transmission in schools while minimizing the impact on K – Gr. 6 students and their families.