Students plan Monday walkout in protest of return to school plan

When schools fully reopen on Monday, a number of students may be absent – but not because they have COVID-19.

“We have planned a Manitoba student-led walkout,” said Brie Villeneuve, a Grade 12 student at Grant Park High School.

Organizers of the walkout said some students in up 40 high schools will stay home as part of the protest because of the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.

“I don’t think it’s a safe place to be right now,” said Weldon Scott, another Grade 12 student Grant Park.

The students want the province to provide better masks, rapid tests for high schoolers, and give students who are not comfortable going back the option to continue with remote learning.

“We’re losing our education that way, so we need the government to step up so that we can get an education,” she said.

On Thursday, Education Minister Cliff Cullen said precautions have been taken for schools, including providing millions of masks and as many rapid tests as possible.

“I highly recommend that those individuals have a second thought about this,” said Cullen.

And then there are parents.

While some can’t wait to send their kids back, some are keeping them home. Others are reluctantly letting them go back, but wish there was a remote learning option in place.

“It’s not my first choice to want to send them back,” said parent Brett Buchan. “I don’t think it’s good for the kids or for the teachers involved.”

The province says remote learning guidance is available when outbreaks occur or when students are isolating.

On Thursday Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer, offered statistics showing the risk of hospitalization for school-aged children right now is low.

He also touted the benefits of in-class learning for social and mental health wellbeing.

“Young people benefit from that structure in their day, the regular learning which they may not get in remote learning.” 

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