Manitoba Teachers’ Society calling for additional teachers as current staff ‘exhausted’

WINNIPEG — The Manitoba Teachers’ Society is calling for the hiring of additional teachers, citing an immense strain from the pandemic.

The request comes on the heels of the government’s decision to move schools in the Winnipeg area and northern Manitoba to code orange.

The teachers’ society claims teachers are already dealing with stress and anxiety, and potentially moving to blended learning in such a short time frame will only add to their full workload.

“I’m getting stories of members who, when they go to their cars, and they’re in their cars eating lunch because that’s deemed to be the safest place for them to eat lunch, they’re in their cars exhausted at lunch hour, so they eat lunch, and they take a nap,” said James Bedford, president of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society.

Bedford said teachers are dealing with even more uncertainty as new restrictions are set to take place Monday.

“It sounds as if a classroom teacher could return as early as Tuesday to a classroom where some students are physically present in the classroom, some students are learning remotely, and at the same time, the teacher is going to teach both groups of students,” he said.

On Thursday, the province announced starting Monday, all schools in the Winnipeg metropolitan region and northern Manitoba will move to code orange.

In an email to CTV News, a spokesperson for Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen said, “While minimal transmission is occurring in schools at this point, the additional public health measures announced yesterday are critical to ensure that the schools respond to the current risks and conditions given rising community transmission.”

The biggest difference under the new protocols is that temporary remote learning will be offered to kindergarten to grade 8 students.

Some schools already dealt with code orange early in the school year.

“It’s been an enormous amount of extra work, and they cannot sustain it for more than just that few week period,” said Bedford

The teachers’ society is calling for more teachers to be hired in order to accommodate blended learning and more physically distanced learning.

In response, the Education Minister’s spokesperson wrote, “Our government previously announced the $100-million safe schools funding to support school divisions in a variety of ways, and while government does not hire teachers, it is working closely with school divisions as they recruit additional staff based on their demands and needs.

Bedford, however, says the demand for teachers is high.

“I think the first option we should be looking at is, can we create the physical space? Can we hire the teachers necessary to teach children this year? Because our children deserve that.”

The new restrictions for schools will be in place as long as Winnipeg and northern Manitoba are under code orange.

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