As parents watch from the outside, the province is answering common questions about keeping students safe during the pandemic.

The province says that as of Wednesday, eleven students have contracted the virus in Manitoba. In Canada, there have been over 450 cases of students with COVID-19 since the beginning of the school year.

"We knew there would be cases in schools; our schools are part of the community," Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen says. "We need to make sure our response is appropriate, to give parents that insurance that they are going to get the information they need." 

Dr. Brent Roussin says that sticking to the fundamentals of handwashing and distancing is important, and following those practices have proved to have worked in Manitoban schools where there have been cases. John Pritchard School is the first Manitoban school to have reported community transmission within its walls. Roussin says none of the cases in the school displayed symptoms while at school but did later during testing. 

"Within the cohort, we have seen multiple cases," Roussin says. "Masks were in use. I believe in the classroom there was the one-meter distancing."

The province says that school divisions are responding quickly to new challenges and understand that parents have questions about how the new procedures work.

Like what Manitobans are seeing at John Pritchard School, cohorts can be sent home to do remote learning in instances where there are COVID-19 cases inside the grouping.

Goertzen says if a student contracts COVID-19, the cohort the student is in automatically is advised to start remote learning instead of in-classroom learning.

Many parents are wondering that when their student is sent home to do remote learning if they need to stay home too.

"A contact of a contact is not considered a contact," Roussin says. "When we are talking about being contacts for a case of COVID, the only people really required to self-isolate are those who public health has specifically advised to self-isolate. "

Roussin says if a student does not have COVID-19 but is told to do remote learning households do not have to isolate.

When a school entered the Orange stage of the Pandemic Response System, as John Pritchard School has, Roussin says extra precautions will be taking place.

When a school enters Orange, Roussin says students will continue to attend school, but with two-metre distancing for elementary school grades. Remote learning will be used for those in Grades 9 through 12.

Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen says that while the pandemic is new to everyone, talking to children about it is a balancing act.

"I think all of us as parents have struggled with that a little bit, in terms of 'when is too much information too much?" 

Goertzen says that there is a lot of information, but parents should take into consideration the age of their child, and how much information they need to know without creating fear in their children.

"Certainly, l think that parents should be expressing to their students that they should be following the guidance they are getting within the schools."

The Education Minister says that it may not make sense to all students, but that health experts have created the guidelines to protect them. Goertzen says that is is important for students to know that public health officials want to protect them, and following guidance from teachers and principals is important.