Schools in Winnipeg, northern Manitoba must make more space under extra COVID-19 measures

The Manitoba government has announced new measures for schools in Winnipeg and the Northern Health region, including requirements to spread students out in class and cancel field trips.

The new rules come in response to increasing community transmission of COVID-19, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said Thursday.

Speaking at an afternoon news conference, Roussin said schools remain a low-risk environment for COVID-19 transmission.

“We are seeing, though, more widespread community transmission, so this increases the amount of cases we see in schools, even though they are not acquired in schools,” he said.

The new measures, coming into effect Monday, will be in place as long as the regions remain at the orange, or restricted, level on the province’s pandemic response system.

The Winnipeg area has been at that level since Sept. 28. The province announced Thursday that the Northern Health region will move to that level as of Monday.

Starting then, schools in the orange regions will have to ensure two metres of physical distance “to the greatest extent possible,” the province’s new rules say.

The province advises schools to reconfigure classrooms and move furniture to make extra space, along with repurposing common areas, libraries, multi-purpose rooms and empty classrooms.

Previously, the province had said that one-metre distance was the minimum requirement in classrooms. 

Students in kindergarten to Grade 8 may be offered temporary remote learning.

Extracurricular activities are only permitted if all learning and distancing requirements are met. Anyone involved in sports activities should maintain distance when they aren’t actively participating.

Under the new measures, all field trips must be either postponed or cancelled. Indoor choir and the use of wind instruments are not permitted.