Potential extended Christmas break being considered in Manitoba
WINNIPEG -- Manitoba’s premier hinted the province is considering a potential extended Christmas break for students and staff in the province.
During a news conference Tuesday morning, Premier Brian Pallister said Manitoba was considering an extension of the Christmas break next month.
Later in the news conference, the premier said discussions are underway with Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen, but did not say when an announcement could be made.
“I’m not trying to imply decisions at this point,” Pallister said. “There’s a lot of consultation that has to be involved.”
The idea of extending school breaks in December is an idea that has been floated in other parts of Canada to help deal with a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault said he is considering a temporary closure of schools in the province, and Concordia University also announced it would extend its winter break by one week.
Ontario is also considering an extended school closure over the winter break.
Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer, the province is considering an extension because it would provide an incubation period that could reduce community transmission in the new year.
He said there will still be strong messaging to avoid large gatherings over the Christmas holidays.
“We know it's going to be challenging for people and probably there will be gatherings that occur,” Roussin said.
“So giving possibly an extended time after that break may be able to give us an incubation period after a large amount of gathering, and maybe offset some of that.”
Roussin said no decisions about an extended Christmas break have been made.
Alan Campbell, president of the Manitoba School Boards Association, said an early start to Christmas break is being considered in other jurisdictions as well.
“Our conversations here between education partners and government is that everything is on the table in terms of thinking outside of what we’ve done in years past, so that may include conversations around an early start to Christmas Break," Campbell said.
Campbell said if public health recommends the holiday extension, the School Boards Association will support it.
Dr. Jason Kindrachuk, a virologist at the University of Manitoba, said the virus is spreading uncontrollably in our province, and we have to start looking at the known and unknown areas of transmission to help slow the spread.
“Schools I think are the unanswered question, and I think if we’re trying to be as precautious as possible in this type of situation, the likelihood is (it’s) an area that we have to think about implementing pretty strong roadblocks.”
Some parents aren’t on board with the idea of an extension.
“For some parents, it’s going to be extremely challenging just because they work in the medical field, or they are single parents," one parent told CTV News.
“I think I would kind of be against it just because financially I need the money, and where would I send (my kids)?” another parent said.
The Manitoba Teachers' Society said it will be attending a team meeting Wednesday with Department of Education representatives where it will discuss the idea of an extension, and the impact it will have.
Campbell said schools are safe in Manitoba, but that could change.
“Every time the cases increase in communities it becomes more and more difficult to keep the virus out of schools.”
-With files from CTV’s Nicole Bogart.