Manitoba Daily

Friday, January 28, 2022

Manitoba teachers return to work, and schools prepare for Omicron’s uncertainty

Teachers return to work in Manitoba, and schools prepare for Omicron

Key takeaways:

  • In the face of the Omicron variant’s uncertainty, Manitoba teachers returned to work on Thursday, preparing for a week of remote learning.
  • Brian O’Leary expressed his hope that the schools will not be forced to use remote learning for an extended period.

After a week off for winter break, Manitoba teachers returned to work on Thursday, preparing for a week of remote learning in the face of the Omicron variant’s uncertainty.

Teachers are currently contacting students, sending out Chromebooks, putting together lesson plans, and sorting out which students need to come in for in-person learning next week, according to Brian O’Leary, superintendent of the Seven Oaks School Division.

He explained that the week of remote learning, which starts on Jan. 10, gives students and staff more time to get vaccines and boosters and more time for schools to monitor progress before reopening.

“We’ll give the rapid antigen tests to all of our students in Kindergarten through Grade 6 next week,” O’Leary said, noting that vaccine uptake in this age group isn’t as high as it is in older age groups.

Also read: COVID-19 cases have prompted Winnipeg police to declare an emergency

“We’ll make sure we have enough masks for staff, as well as medical-grade masks for students.”

O’Leary expressed his hope that the schools will not be forced to use remote learning for an extended period.

He stated, “We do want to have kids in school.”

Dr. Marni Hanna, a community pediatrician and the President of the Manitoba Pediatric Society, agrees with O’Leary’s position on returning to the classroom.

Hanna advocated for in-person learning in a letter to the premier, several ministers, health officials, and the presidents of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society and the Canadian Pediatrics Society.

Hanna emphasized the importance of school for a child’s mental, physical, and developmental health in the letter, noting that school closures have had a negative impact on children.

“Manitoba’s children, in particular, have had a lot of mental health issues,” she explained.

“That’s the big one, with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, excessive screen time and related behavioral issues, obesity, and even suicidal thoughts, which unfortunately some children have followed through on.”

Hanna added that she doubts that closing schools will significantly impact COVID-19 transmission.

Teachers return to work in Manitoba, and schools prepare for Omicron
Teachers return to work in Manitoba, and schools prepare for Omicron. Image from CBC

“The spread of COVID in schools has mirrored what is going on in the community in the past, but it has not been a driver of COVID spread in the past,” she said.

“This should not turn into weeks or months of remote learning for children this time,” she said, adding that the upcoming week of remote learning is understandable. It’s been a long time, we know what to do, and this should’ve been anticipated in advance so that families could prepare more effectively. It’s extremely taxing.”

Schools, according to Hanna, serve as a social network for children, making them feel safe and providing a sense of normalcy.

“As a pediatrician, I now spend a significant portion of my day dealing with children’s mental health issues. “And since the pandemic began, these have just skyrocketed,” she said.

SECURITY IN SCHOOLS

According to O’Leary, the school division is taking several steps to keep students safe, including spreading them out as much as possible, using Plexiglass dividers, and ensuring the ventilation system is working properly.

“We’re expecting all of our children to return to school.” So masking, staying home if you’re symptomatic, testing for the younger kids, and vaccination will be the main defenses,” he said.

According to O’Leary, the division is concerned about a large number of teachers staying home sick, but it has methods for prioritizing and shifting staff.

“We don’t have control with this new variant.” “We just need to watch and react to a large extent, and I believe we’re prepared to do that,” he said.

Source: CTV News

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