Manitoba schools prepare for in-class learning, new contact tracing strategy

As parents get ready to send their children back to school for in-class learning Monday, teachers and divisions have been busy making sure it's done as safe as possible. Brittany Greenslade reports.

With Manitoba students back in school Monday, educators are getting ready for in-person learning once again — this time under a new contact tracing strategy that focuses on absences rather than notifying close contacts.

Seven Oaks School Division’s superintendent told 680 CJOB he’s hopeful that the steps being taken will be enough.

“If we keep masks on, if we socially distance as much as we can, and especially if parents keep their kids home if they’re symptomatic, we’re taking the steps we need to to mitigate the spread,” said Brian O’Leary.

O’Leary said a lot of principals could barely keep up with contact tracing in previous waves, and now with thousands of cases a day, it would be too difficult.

“From principals, there’s a bit of relief. Really, a lot of the contact tracing said, ‘Watch for symptoms, keep your kids home if they’re symptomatic,’ and that is advice that we’re doubling down on,” he said.

“Principals were doing most of the contact tracing, making phone calls — we had principals who were doing it literally all weekend, every weekend, and that was when we were getting 500 cases a day in the previous waves.

“When we’re getting cases in the thousands, it’s simply not possible.”

O’Leary said on the plus side, vaccination levels in the city for older kids are close to 90 per cent, and the levels are continually rising for younger kids.

Read more:

Province announces changes to COVID-19 contact tracing as students set to return Monday

The president of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society said Thursday that he has some concerns with the province’s plan.

“One of our big concerns was an absenteeism rate when people got sick,” said James Bedford.

“It sounds like they’re going to let people get sick, and we’re going to find that we don’t have enough replacement teachers to step in. We’re going to have children out sick and falling behind in their classes.

“I think one of the big concerns that teachers — and likely parents — are going to be asking is what’s changed since December to make this a safer place?”

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