WINNIPEG -- Schools across Manitoba are set to open their doors in just a few weeks, but not all parents are on board with sending their kids back to class.

Some parents worry the return plan does not address all COVID-19 health concerns and are calling for an online learning alternative.

With cases spiking, Nadine Huberdeau, a mother of three, is uneasy at the idea of sending her kids to school.

"I'm concerned about class sizes," she said. "I'm concerned for the youngest one about masks, buses."

Huberdeau's kids are in grades four, nine and eleven, and she would like to keep them at home for the time being.

"I think they really need to put in alternative options for parents, whether it's an online option or distance learning," she said.

That's why Huberdeau signed the "Offer Manitoba Schools an Online Learning Alternative" petition, which calls on the government to create an online learning alternative.

"I just wanted to give parents the option of online learning if they so choose," said Karyn Balser, who created the petition.

Like Huberdeau, Balser is worried her kids might catch the virus. "I think primarily, I just want them to be back in school," said Balser. "I think that's important, but I don't feel it's safe."

As of Saturday evening, the petition has gathered more than 3,000 signatures.


Dr. Toby Rutner, a psychologist who specializes in stress, believes keeping your kids at home might hinder more than help.

"They need to be back in school. Their life needs to be normalized. They need to see their friends. They need to socialize with their friends. They need to interact with their friends," said Rutner.

Rutner also believes that parents' worries can trickle down to their children.

"A lot of kids are anxious," he said. "The anxiety comes from their parents for the most part, especially the younger ones."

The Manitoba government announced it is holding a town hall on Tuesday, where parents can raise their concerns with the chief provincial public health officer and the education minister.

But for parents like Huberdeau, it might not be enough to ease their fears.

"For the parents that are just not wanting to send their kids through school throughout all of this extra stress and burden, extra information just isn't going to be enough," she said.

Most Manitoba school divisions have yet to release their full back to school plans, but Brandon School Division, which released its plan Friday, said it expects all students to attend school, minus a few special cases.