The Minister of Education is hopeful students will remain in school for the remainder of the semester but says there is no guarantee.
“Cautiously optimistic” were the words carefully chosen by Minister Cliff Cullen when he touched on the matter earlier this week.
“Clearly, we are mindful of what is going on in other jurisdictions across the country and the concerns that we see there, especially with the new variants,” the minister notes in a press conference Thursday.
COVID-19 case numbers are again skyrocketing across the nation prompting many regions to pull kids from their physical classrooms in favour of learning online. Within the past few days, the city of Calgary has moved to a remote learning model and the entire province of Ontario will be following suit this Monday as their spring break draws to a close.
For now, Cullen says there is no immediate pressure in Manitoba to do likewise, but that could change.
“We will be working closely with public health to make sure we keep a very mindful eye on this and I know they are monitoring situations as they develop in schools across our province. Decisions may have to be made, but we will seek advice from our experts on that front," he says.
Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin offers his own perspective on the subject. He notes most students who are contracting the virus are doing so outside of their school building and the risk within educational centres remains minimal.
"The most quickly growing cohort of cases is that 10 to 19 age group and most of this is not gathering within schools; it's gatherings outside of schools," he says.
Where Cullen’s comments may leave room for interpretation, Roussin indicates plainly that keeping students in schools is a priority for public health.
“We're certainly not taking anything off the table, but right now we are trying to change our direction while keeping the kids in school," he says.
"We think there's a lot of benefit to that."