WINNIPEG -- Manitoba’s largest rural school division is set to move to an online learning format this week due to high COVID-19 infection rates in the region.

The Hanover School Division and surrounding schools are moving to Code Red, which means starting on Tuesday, Nov. 24, all students will begin learning remotely. Classes will resume as normal on Monday.

“Acting on the advice of the chief provincial public health officer, schools have notified families and staff,” said a letter from Shelley Amos, the interim superintendent of the school division.

"This change is being made in light of the widespread community transmission of COVID-19.”

The Manitoba government will make some exceptions, however, for children of critical service.

In a statement, the province said it would accommodate “where possible, K-6 children of critical services workers who cannot make alternative care arrangements.” The province will also accommodate children over the age of 12 whose parents are critical service workers, as well as students with disabilities.

Critical service workers include health-care workers, teachers, school administrators, police officers, corrections workers, first responders, child protection workers, grocery store staff, frontline natural resource workers and gas station attendants.

Under Code Red, school divisions aren’t responsible for transportation, but Amos said the division is looking at its options and the possibility for minimal bus transportation.

“We do understand and agree that this may create hardship for some families,” Amos said. 

“We appreciate your continued partnership and willingness to adapt and respond to these evolving conditions."

The Hanover School Division serves 8,500 students, including students in communities like Blumenort, Niverville and Steinbach. This move to remote learning affects 19 schools in the division, as well as one in the Division Scolaire Franco-Manitobaine, and eight independent schools.