WINNIPEG -- The province released new back-to-school guidelines and resources Wednesday, less than a week before students step into a learning environment transformed by COVID-19.

Despite mask requirements and physical distancing rules, there are no plans at this point to make remote learning an option for everyone, according to the province. Its a decision some parents say is putting them in a difficult position.

“My partner and I have a 14-year-old son. Both he and I have pre-existing health conditions,” University of Brandon history professor David Winter told CTV News on Wednesday.

Winter had a heart attack a few years ago, while his son has asthma. His family lives in Brandon, which is under Code Orange, the second-highest alert level in the province’s alert system.

“We are the hardest hit jurisdiction in the country right now,” said Winter.

The father is part of the group Safe September MB, which wants the province to make remote learning available to everyone.

It’s launched a petition, which as of Wednesday evening had more than 17,000 signatures.

Some students with health conditions will be allowed to learn from home based on the advice of a doctor. But Winter said the province has been vague about who qualifies for remote learning.

“We can’t really get a straight answer about where the bar is set. Just how sick, just how immunocompromised do you have to be?”

Manitoba Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen was asked Wednesday why remote learning isn’t widely available.

“Students learn better in the classroom,” said Goertzen, adding the current guidelines follow public health advice and also address concerns raised by teachers.

“Many teachers told us it’s difficult to do that dual-track, to teach part of the class at home and part of the class in person.”

Many Manitoba high school students will do some form of remote learning in the fall.

Seventeen-year-old Herika Modha, who is going into grade 12, said her school is staggering classes.

However, she said there is no substitute for being at school.

“I feel I learn more in person rather than being online," she said.