All kindergarten to Grade 12 schools in Winnipeg and Brandon, as well as those in the Garden Valley and Red River Valley school divisions, will stick with remote learning for the remainder of the school year, as the province continues to deal with high numbers of COVID-19 cases.
However, beginning June 14, schools in remote learning will be able to reopen to small groups for in-person support, clinical support, assessments and transition planning, unless otherwise directed by the province, Education Minister Cliff Cullen said at a news conference Thursday.
That will allow five to six students at a time, per classroom, to meet with teachers and “end the year on a positive note,” Cullen said. The limited return will be optional, he said.
“While this is not the end of the year we all would have wanted, we still have half of Manitoba schools with students attending regularly,” said Cullen.
This is the second year in a row that some Manitoba schools have ended remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I know this year has been difficult, but there have been many life lessons learned,” Cullen told this year’s graduates. “We know that there are many better times ahead, and the resilience you have shown will be useful in the years ahead.”
Dr. Jazz Atwal, Manitoba’s deputy chief public health officer, said the province’s data shows that 21 per cent of overall COVID-19 cases in Manitoba are in school-aged children.
Winnipeg and Brandon schools were moved to remote learning on May 12, followed on May 18 by those in the Garden Valley and Red River school divisions.
That was initially set to last until at least May 30, but officials extended remote learning until at least June 7 for those schools. Dauphin schools were to stay closed until June 9.
Nearly 400 schools continue to teach online, though some rural schools remain open to in-person learning.
As of Tuesday, 170 schools had one or more reported cases of COVID-19. There have been 335 positive school cases in the past two weeks, with nearly 90 per cent of those involving students, the provincial government’s school cases dashboard says.
Though Manitoba’s overall case counts appear to have plateaued recently, the seven-day average remains high, at about 320 as of Tuesday. Manitoba’s overcrowded hospitals are expected to see patient numbers continue to rise in the coming weeks.
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