What Code Orange means for going back to school in Brandon
An empty classroom is seen in this undated photo.
The Prairie Mountain Health region, which includes Brandon, is under Code Orange, the second highest alert level, as COVID-19 cases surge.
The restrictions are part of the province’s new pandemic response system. Despite the tighter rules, Code Orange restrictions won’t apply in the classroom.
“The Brandon School Division has been advised that the health orders under the new level are applied in a focused manner and that at this time do not apply to schools,” according to a memo from BSD Superintendent Marc Casavant sent to staff and families.
Under Code Orange, masks are mandatory in all indoor and outdoor public places in Brandon. Group sizes are also limited to ten.
While the province has made masks mandatory for students in Grades 4 to 12, there are no plans to cap group sizes to ten in schools in the Prairie Mountain Health Region.
‘SCHOOLS ARE NOT CHANGING THEIR LEVEL OF RESTRICTIONS’
During Thursday’s COVID-19 update, Dr. Brent Roussin said the province has received a “number of questions” from people in Prairie Mountain Health about sending kids back to school. For now, Roussin said “schools are not changing their level of restrictions.”
“The epidemiology told us that a lot of (the cases) were related to large group gatherings, so that is why we tailored it to large group gatherings,” he said. “We really did not apply the order to any other sector.”
On Monday, Manitoba Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen said each school division will have its own approach to reopening schools.
“Every school is different,” said Goertzen. “Sometimes they’re using additional space within that school where it exists. I think you’ll see more details about those school plans in the next coming weeks.”
Goertzen made the comments during a funding announcement. The province set aside an additional $52 million to try to get students back to school by providing masks and ramping up cleaning.
Casavant said while Code Orange rules don’t apply to the Brandon School Division right now, that may change.
“We are looking at our existing plan for re-opening and making preparations to ensure we can meet the requirements for schools if the level changes to Orange/Restricted were applied to K-12 education in our region,” said the memo.
The restrictions came into effect Monday and are expected to last at least two incubation periods, which is around a month.