Minister Cliff Cullen is hoping the extended winter vacation will buy the province time to make decisions on the rapidly-changing omicron situation in Manitoba.

The education minister is not telling students to pack up their desks before the break but understands if parents decide to.

"I think some of them will be making that decision on the unknown, and that's our point here. Public Health is saying 'listen we have a new variant that we don't know a lot about yet," Cullen says. "We are going to try to provide as much information as soon as possible to parents and students so they can be prepared for what we hope will be a safe return to school in January."

cullenEducation Minister Cliff Cullen announced Wednesday morning that the winter break for all elementary and high schools will be extended until January 10. (Screenshot: Zoom)

It is too early for the minister to be able to tell what the second week of January will look like but says it is a possibility that in-school learning will be delayed further as they "keep all options on the table" with public health.

The minister says Public Health does not know what the future will hold and is asking people to get vaccinated and stay home when sick to buy students more time. Cullen says the two extra days without students will give them more time to evaluate the situation.

"We would love to have our students in school if it is safe to do so. The assessments will be done over the coming weeks, whether that is doable."

On Wednesday, the minister announced that schools will not be in session for students as planned until January 10. Hours later, Manitoba's Deputy Public Health Officer Dr. Jazz Atwal said he is estimating that one-quarter to one-third of the newly-conformed 402 cases are the omicron variant.