WINNIPEG -- The Manitoba NDP is calling on the province to hire education students, who are at the end of their degrees, to deal with the shortage of teachers, substitutes, educational assistants, and classroom supports.

“We’re in an emergency in our education system right now,” said NDP Leader Wab Kinew.

“Teachers are stressed out, they’re hanging on by a thread. At the same time, parents are very, very worried about how safe it is for their kids to be in the classroom. What we’re proposing today is to get those teachers, who’ve already done the vast majority of their training, who’ve already been in the classroom this year, to now get, at least on an emergency basis, certified to teach in our classrooms.”

Kinew, education critic Nello Altomare, and MLA Lisa Naylor made the plea on Wednesday, saying that Manitoba schools are struggling to keep classes open due to a lack of resources.

The NDP added that teachers are also working hard to balance in-person and virtual learning.

This is why the NDP is proposing the province invests the federal government’s funding commitment and hire education students, who are either in their final year of training or in their practicum work. 

According to the NDP, there are more than 500 students in the last year of their degrees at the Universities of Manitoba and Winnipeg who would be eligible through this plan.

“We know that the province has access to $85 million in federal funding,” Kinew said.

“Right now we’re on track to graduate a little bit more than 500 teachers next year. So basically what we’re saying is why don’t we get those 500 teachers into the classroom now? And of course that federal funding would be more than enough to pay for this new proposal that we’re advancing here today.”

Kinew added these students and substitute teachers should also receive benefits like paid sick leave.

This proposal comes a few days after hundreds of Manitoba parents signed an open letter urging Premier Brian Pallister and Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen to respond to the COVID-19 crisis in schools.

CTV News Winnipeg has reached out to the province for more information.