Coronavirus: Education of Manitoba students now in parents’ hands

Friday marked the final day of classes in Manitoba schools for at least three weeks as they shut down to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Many parents who pulled their kids out of classes earlier in the week are realizing how hard it might be to keep them on track.

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The future of education in Manitoba, at least for the next few weeks, is in the hands of parents, not teachers.

Coronavirus outbreak: Manitoba announces school closures for three weeks
Coronavirus outbreak: Manitoba announces school closures for three weeks

The provincial government allowed one more week of classes at public schools to give parents more time to plan childcare services, and allow teachers an extra window of opportunity to plan lessons for a layoff that is scheduled to last until at least April 13.

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“Our staff have been working extraordinarily hard to prepare materials and get resources available in a short period of time to assist children while they learn at home,” explains Winnipeg School Division board chair Chris Broughton.

Even in the age of distance learning and online education, going digital isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, and Broughton says educators still had to do some things the old fashioned way.

“There will be a significant amount of online resources families can utilize, but many of our students and families don’t have internet access, or have precarious internet access, so we have a multitude of strategies we’re using.”

READ MORE: Manitoba government delays education report over COVID-19 uncertainty

Even though children take breaks every year in the summer, around the hoildays and even in March for spring break, this type of layoff is unprecedented and schools are doing what they can to make sure children don’t fall through the cracks.

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“Typically there’s a lot of support around the holiday season, and a lot of programs and services run through the summer. Spring break is always a significant challenge in our schools as children don’t always have those supports,” says Broughton.

READ MORE: Winnipeg School Division shelves proposal for later start times for teens

And class materials aren’t the only thing teachers have been getting ready.

“We’ve also been preparing food to go home with students so we can get them off to a good start, and we’re working with all levels of government to make sure no child goes malnourished over the next three weeks.”

Broughton explains getting school back on track once in-school classes resume — whenever that happens — will take a team effort, and he applauded the work of the Winnipeg Jets, who donated $100,000 to Winnipeg Harvest earlier in the week.

“It’s that kind of support from the community that will allow some of our most vulnerable students to succeed.”

Health experts agree schools may need to be closed for longer than one month
Health experts agree schools may need to be closed for longer than one month

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials say the risk is low for Canadians but warn this could change quickly. They caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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