WINNIPEG -- The Manitoba government announced new measures for schools in Winnipeg and Northern Manitoba on Thursday, but they could cause “extraordinary challenges,” according to the Manitoba Teachers’ Society.

These measures, which go into effect on Oct. 26 and will last as long as these two regions are under code orange restrictions, include ensuring physical distancing to the greatest extent; removing excess furniture from classrooms to make extra space; and requiring teachers and staff who move across cohorts to wear medical-grade masks.

The province also said Grades 9 to 12 will continue with the current blended learning model, but Kindergarten to Grade 8 students could now be offered a temporary remote learning option while the restricted levels are in place.

CTV News Winnipeg spokes with James Bedford, president of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society, regarding his thoughts about these added measures.


Bedford said since the start of the school year, Manitoba has been calling for two metres of physical distancing, yet seems to default to ‘but one metres okay.’

He said this messaging has not changed.

“If two metres is what’s safe, then let’s hire the additional teachers, let’s find the additional space for our students and make two metres the standard everywhere,” Bedford said.


Bedford said to a large extent, teachers have already removed excess furniture from their classrooms to create more space for physical distancing.

He noted, he would be surprised if there was much more furniture that can be taken out at this point.

“Our classrooms are not of unlimited space and teachers were told before the start of the school year to clear out all unnecessary furniture in order to achieve as much social distancing as possible in their classrooms,” he said.


As for mandating teachers and staff that move between cohorts to wear medical-grade masks, Bedford said the concern is that this change was made several months into the school year.

“Now, it’s not okay to use to a non-medical mask and we’re going to be using a medical mask,” he said.

“Why weren’t we doing this right from the start?”


Bedford said Manitoba schools have not prepared for a blended learning model for elementary-aged students.

“Our scenarios call for either in-class learning with the proper physical distancing or everybody moving to remote learning,” he said.

“Blended learning is an extraordinary challenge for teachers.”

He explained the reason this is particularly challenging for teachers is because it means they have to teach students in class and remotely – at the same time.

“In other jurisdictions, this leads to rapid teacher burnout, I don’t see a difference here in Manitoba. That’s what’s going to happen,” Bedford said.

- With files from CTV’s Rachel Lagace and Charles Lefebvre.