Manitoba's education minister says his department consulted with the Manitoba Teachers' Society on back-to-school plans, but the group is disappointed with the end result.
Manitoba NDP critics and teachers are sharing their concerns after an announcement of near-normal school activities in the fall. On Thursday afternoon, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin and Education Minster Cliff Cullen announced what parents and caregivers can expect for their students in the 2021-2022 school year. This plan will have students back in the classroom, without mask requirements.
The Manitoba Teachers' Society (MTS) disagrees with the province's choice to eliminate mask requirements, highlighting seven suggested changes. A majority call from the group is HVAC improvements.
“Parents, teachers and students must feel safe for a September return to school. During the entire pandemic, MTS has told the government that the safety of students and members in schools MUST be the number one priority. Lifting the mask mandate is dangerous and premature. It puts students and staff at risk. Let’s remember that breakthrough cases are a fact of life now – even among children. Delta variant cases are real – even among children. And some children will be attending school in low-vaccination areas," Vice President Nathan Martindale says in a statement.
Cullen says the department consulted with MTS and the Manitoba School Board Association on the province's plan.
NDP Education critic and former principal Nello Altomare asks if this plan is safe for students.
Schools need to be safe.— Nello Altomare (@nello4transcona) August 5, 2021
Kids will wear masks no problem.
We need to keep schools open with the highest standards for safety.
It is critically important to keep schools open because we need to catch up.
Does the plan we heard today keep our learning spaces safe?#MBEd #mbpoli
"We need to keep schools open with the highest standards for safety. It is critically important to keep schools open because we need to catch up," he tweets.
Teacher Terri Willard from Seven Oaks School Division Met School is concerned about vaccination rates in youth, quickly taking to Twitter to respond to the announcement.
I have 15 students in a classroom the size of a decent living room/dining room at home for 6.5 hours per day. And masks are now only "recommended". You ever try to persuade a 14-year-old about anything that is not an actual rule?? *cranks HEPA filter to high*— Terri Willard (@TWillardEdu) August 5, 2021
"I have 15 students in a classroom the size of a decent living room/dining room at home for 6.5 hours per day. And masks are now only 'recommended.' You ever try to persuade a 14-year-old about anything that is not an actual rule?" Willard tweets.
Manitoba's Liberal party leader Dougald Lamont says the return to school plan is "worse than we could have imagined" in a Twitter thread.
"There is no plan for immunocompromised or disabled children who cannot attend school & whose parents have to work. There should be mandatory masks, frequent testing, and the government still needs to upgrade HVAC systems, many of which (have) been obsolete for 30 years," Lamont says.
Even while they admit that a fourth wave is inevitable, the PCs are sending 200,000 children back to school without basic safety measures like mandatory masks. We didn’t expect much, but this is worse than we could have imagined. #mbpoli #MBEd 1/2— Dougald Lamont (@DougaldLamont) August 5, 2021