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The concerns as teachers head back to the classroom
WINNIPEG -- It's been two months since schools were forced to close, and learning moved online because of the pandemic.
In a few short days, schools in Manitoba will open once again with just a month left in the school year. However, the majority of learning will continue remotely.
The move for teachers to head back to the classroom isn't sitting well with everyone.
"They're really catching their stride now. They're having a lot of success with their students, and it doesn't make sense to abruptly stop that and move everything back into the school setting," said James Bedford, president of the Manitoba Teachers' Society.
Bedford said he's received a number of concerns about the plans.
"They're concerned about the safety of their extended families, the safety of their students who would be coming into the schools, the safety of individuals they would come into contact with after leaving the school," said Bedford.
He said some teachers are also worried about the short notice of pivoting back to schools, and some have concerns about finding childcare again.
Under the next phase of the province's reopening plan:
-Teachers and students may meet in small group and one-on-one settings;
-Day camps and summer programming may operate;
-Students can access school Wi-Fi and/or computer equipment;
-Counselling and emergency phone access may be provided;
-The use of outdoor facilities and playgrounds is encouraged.
The province said physical distancing must be maintained, and there must be no more than 25 people per room.
"School divisions are making plans for teachers and other staff to start returning to schools on June 1, recognizing workplace accommodations and adjustments may be needed," said a spokesperson for Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen.
The spokesperson said while working from home has been encouraged where possible, many employees will return to the workplace as a result of changes in phase two.
"The limited re-entry to schools will proceed with caution as we work to build the confidence of students, staff, and the public," said the spokesperson.
As this school year comes to a close, the Manitoba Teachers' Society has its eyes on the next. The province is proposing an early start date of August 31, but the MTS is hoping to see that pushed back to after Labour Day.
"It is very much an issue in our minds of quality and not quantity. We recognize that the next school year is going to be a challenging school year for students, perhaps for parents, certainly for teachers," said Bedford.
Goertzen's spokesperson said consultations are continuing on the 2020-21 school year with multiple stakeholders from the education system.