Hanover School Division’s shift to remote learning a relief for some parents

Students in the Hanover School Division made the move to remote learning Tuesday as the region faces a surge in cases of COVID-19, and for some parents of students in the division, the change is welcome.

“I’m working from home right now and my husband is working in his office, but doesn’t have contact with really anybody. So our son was probably the biggest concern when it came to contact outside the house,” said Erin Gauthier, who is from Mitchell, and the mother of a Grade 10 student in southeastern Manitoba division.

“If he’s home with everybody else, there’s very, very few contacts.”

Gauthier’s son got used to doing three-hour-long classes twice a day, so learning remotely and doing five different classes in a day is something get used to, she said.

“I’m really lucky. He’s really very independent when it comes to his schoolwork,” she said.

The Hanover School Division serves roughly 8,500 students in nine Manitoba communities, including Blumenort, Mitchell and Steinbach — Manitoba’s third-largest city.

The area has been hard hit in recent weeks by the coronavirus. Last week, Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, said the Steinbach health district had a 40 per cent test-positivity rate.

The province announced Friday in-school education would ending for the time being “in light of the widespread community transmission of COVID-19.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 20 cases of COVID-19 among students and staff within the Hanover School Division, according to interim superintendent Shelley Amos. She says public health officials have determined there was no in-school transmission.

“[Remote learning is] a preventative measure to assist the community as a whole.”

Most, though not all, students will be learning from home for the time being.

Kindergarten to Grade 6 students who are children of critical service workers are allowed to be in the school, as are students with disabilities up to Grade 12 — but even inside the school, they’ll still be taking part in the same remote-learning classes as their peers.

Amos says reactions from parents have been mixed.

“Some have wanted this to happen much earlier, and others have felt like they want schools to remain open. We have two camps and everything in between,” she said.

Gauthier says she hopes remote learning will continue for the foreseeable future, until the pandemic is better in hand.

“My biggest concern is that this is going to be only a momentary thing and they’ll go back to being in class,” she said.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Perrin’s two children have been learning at their home in Steinbach since mid-March, but she’s grateful the school division made the move.

“They should have shut down right at the beginning, or at least give them the option for remote learning to lessen the number of families in the schools,” she said, adding that needing a doctor’s note to keep children home was an unnecessary barrier.

Perrin plans to send both kids back into the classroom when she feels it’s safe to do so.

“I do want them to be back in school and I’m just waiting for this pandemic to finally go away.”