The province of Manitoba says that after learning online due to the COVID-19 crisis, students are free to head back to school on Monday.
Older students from Grades 7 and up have been remote learning from home since the beginning of January, after the holiday break, but that may change on Jan. 18.
“On Jan. 18, 2021, the temporary two-week period of remote learning following the holiday break will end and in-person classroom learning will resume,” said Jamie Hofing, press secretary to Education Minister Cliff Cullen.
Cullen was shuffled into the Education Minister position on Jan. 7.
“However, school divisions and schools may continue to offer optional remote learning to kindergarten to Grade 8 students who can be supported while learning at home for the remainder of the 2020/2021 school year,” Hofing added.
While the province has opened the door for kids going back to school, it’s up to the school divisions on how to implement the return
For most, that means moving back to whatever system the division was using before the mandated remote learning order was issued.
“What we’re hearing from our membership is that this two-week period has gone reasonably well,” said Alan Campbell, president of the Manitoba School Boards Association.
He said the front-line staff “really needed the break” over the holidays, but teachers came back somewhat recharged.
“Engagement has been solid across the board,” he added. “When you know how long the period is, it helps with planning,” unlike what happened in the spring.
The original move to two weeks of remote learning was to ride out the expected spike in coronavirus cases after the holidays.
While Manitoba saw a small spike, that number has been dropping. On Tuesday, Manitoba reported 92 new cases of COVID-19.
Each division will reach out to parents this week if they haven’t already, Campbell said.
“There will be different offerings, but there is infrastructure in place for remote learning.”
Sandra-Dee Beer is a parent with three students in the Louis Riel School Division and says the two weeks of remote learning has gone smoothly for her kids since staff seemed more prepared for it this time around, compared to in the spring.
“My children are in Grade 7 and 8 and they ended up in the same classroom, which was done to reduce cohorts so they’re in the same classroom and they have a great teacher who had things online at the get-go. It was a very easy transition because everything was always available online,” she said.
Beer is glad her kids can go back to class and says she was impressed with how her school handled the health protocols.
“They’ve just gone above and beyond with the safety measures right from the beginning where other schools, it seemed, were catching up to the standards they set right from the get go,” she said.
“Especially with the older students, they know the rules, they’re in place, they’re wearing masks and distancing. All the extras that are being done with the cleaning protocols.”
Beer’s kids have mixed feelings about heading back to the classroom though.
“I call my friends every day so I’m not looking forward to going back to school because I’ll have to wear a mask every day and I prefer at-home learning because I have a bit more freedom,” Grade 7 student Julia Beer said.
“We have four calls every day so in that way, we have online lessons together as a class and if we need it we can talk to them on the side. I felt pretty supported by the teachers and EAs.”
Grade 8 student Brennan Beer says he’s enjoyed remote learning this time around more than in the spring, but misses the classroom.
“Obviously it’s more ideal to be in school but it still works well. Technology has been good to me. There are some perks like you get an extra hour of sleep and you don’t have to wear a mask all the time,” he said.
“I like to see my friends, and playing outside and soccer and stuff. It’s not that bad – it’s tough because it’s the right thing to do right now because everything is going insane but there’s something different about going to class than just being online.”
Brian O’Leary, Superintendent with the Seven Oaks School Division says the divisions are ready to welcome students back Monday.
“I think this two week period was a precaution considering all of the strong traditions and ways we celebrate over Christmas and New Year when families come together and often in larger gatherings. This was a precaution and given the case counts this seems to have paid off.”
O’Leary says they’re prepared to pivot again but is hoping COVID-19 case counts don’t rise.
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