‘It’s going to be hard, but we’ve done this before’: Winnipeg parents navigate return to remote learning

Caleb and Levi Snyder are hard at work. The Grade 3 and kindergarten students are scouring Winnipeg’s Kildonan Park, looking for an object smaller than their hands.

Levi picks up a rock and measures it against his flat palm. He’s done it. He ticks off another item on his mother’s homemade nature scavenger hunt.

The long list also includes five blades of grass, an acorn and something colourful. This is their first remote-learning assignment.

“It’s just something I thought would be fun to do with them and encourage them to get out of the house. To stop playing video games,” said their mother Anne Snyder.

Wednesday marks the first day of another round of remote learning for kindergarten to Grade 12 students in Winnipeg and Brandon. Classrooms are closed to most students due to rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in this third wave of the pandemic.

Also on Wednesday, the province hit a grim milestone of 1,000 deaths due to the virus. The province reported 364 new cases and a total of 221 COVID-19 patients in hospital, 62 of which are in intensive care.

Grade 3 student Caleb Snyder (left) and his brother, Kindergarten student Levi, work to complete their mother Anne’s homemade nature scavenger hunt on Wednesday. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

School age children make up 20 per cent of the province’s total cases, according to Manitoba’s Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin.

The province says remote learning will continue until at least June, but public health officials won’t guarantee students will make it back for the rest of the school year.

Anne Snyder says she and her husband will juggle the kids’ online instruction and homework with their own jobs. She’s not sure if her sons will be back in class before summer break, but she hopes so.

“It’s going to be hard, but we’ve done this before. We’ll get through it again,” she said.

“I think getting the kids to focus is probably the hardest part. They don’t tend to want to do a lot of school work when they’re home. They just want to play and have fun, so we’re trying to incorporate that as well to keep it interesting.”

Katelynn Zlomanchuk and her three children played in Kildonan Park on Wednesday. She’s been keeping her Grade One son at home for a week already due to a COVID-19 exposure at his school. Now, they’ll all be home until at least June for remote learning. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Across the park, Katelynn Zlomanchuk has already been home with all three kids for a week now. She says her son’s Grade 1 class shut down due to a COVID-19 exposure. 

“It sucks. I don’t like it,” said Zlomanchuk.

“He focuses better at school. At home he’s just like, ‘Mom I don’t want to do it.'”

Zlomanchuk is dreading the next few weeks of balancing at-home learning with everyday parenting her six-month-old baby, her five-year-old daughter and her son. But, she said, at least her children don’t seem to mind.

“She has someone to play with now,” said Zlomanchuk, gesturing to her oldest children. “And he loves being at home.”