Health officials looking at ways to reopen schools safely
WINNIPEG -- Although students are not likely to return to school before the next academic year, Manitoba health officials have said they’re already examining what the school year will look like for students once they get back.
Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer, said on Wednesday health officials are looking at multiple options.
“Certainly, things can change by the time fall comes around, but certainly, we’ve looked at what things could look like,” he said. “We’re still going to be dealing with this virus, we’re still going to need to have ways to deal with physical distancing. We know that it’s not possible for the entire day, but there are things that can be put in place.”
Schools have been suspended since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Premier Brian Pallister said reopening schools was not part of the immediate plan of reopening the province, saying last week he doesn’t want to risk a rebound effect of COVID-19 infections if they reopen the schools too soon.
He added schools will not reopen for this school year.
What education will look like has been a topic in several provinces. Elementary school teachers in parts of Quebec are expected to resume classes later in May.
Roussin said measures that are being looked at include reduction of class sizes, spacing desks out, additional virtual learning, and limiting large gatherings in schools, such as assemblies.
“These are all up in the air, they’re just options that we’re looking it,” he said.
Roussin said the most vital thing to ensure when schools reopen is that children and staff are not showing up with symptoms of respiratory illness.
“It’s just vital going forward that there’s policies in place that can really react to that quickly,” he said.
Two Winnipeg school divisions said they are waiting for direction for the province before they begin reopening plans.
“We will follow the direction of Manitoba's Chief Provincial Public Health Officer, in consultation with the Department of Education, for reopening schools, including any measures required for that to happen,” the Winnipeg School Division said in a statement.
“We will continue to plan for the ongoing learning and programming for our students as we wait for decisions and plans to reopen,” added the River East Transcona School Division.
-with files from CTV's Kayla Rosen