WINNIPEG -- Manitoba’s school suspension has been extended indefinitely as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen, along with Premier Brian Pallister, made the announcement during a news conference Tuesday morning. The step is being taken to flatten the curve and help stop the spread of the virus.

“If, prior to the regularly scheduled conclusion of the school year, the public health officer determines that it is safe to reopen our schools, we would eagerly welcome our students back,” said Goertzen.

“It protects those we value the most our children and their education,” Pallister said.

On March 13, the education minister announced that Kindergarten to Grade 12 classes would be closed for a three-week period, beginning on March 23.

Goertzen said students will still receive a final mark and report card, and assessments will continue.

The province noted students won’t be held back as a result of COVID-19.

“Active engagement and learning is required, as we proceed on with this school year,” said Goertzen.

Students who are on track to graduate this year will graduate.

“I know this is not how Grade 12 students envisioned their final year, a year that they and their families have looked forward to, and worked so hard for so long,” Goertzen said.

The Manitoba government said teachers will work remotely by assigning work, providing assessments and putting together report cards.

Provincial exams are cancelled for Grade 12 students, but teacher assessments will continue. Provincial assessments are already complete for students in early and middle years, but other assessments will continue.

Goertzen said, in a letter to school divisions, planning is underway to minimize the impact this will have on the next school year and arrange for learning recovery where necessary.

School buildings will close, but schools need to maintain essential staffing so teachers can access resources. Childcare centres in schools will still operate. Schools will need to ensure physical distancing and increase cleaning.

Goertzen said these efforts are aimed towards reopening classrooms, as well as multifaceted ways to teach and learn after COVID-19.

He added savings generated as a result of these closures need to be put in a separate account and only spent with department approval.


- with files from CTV's Charles Lefebvre