The Government of Manitoba is sharing that come fall, students will be back in the classroom.

Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen and Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief provincial public health officer are informing the public of their plans for education during the pandemic.

Goertzen says their plans balance the needs of public health and the education of students in Manitoba.

The 2020 fall plan includes all students going to school for in-class learning as of September 8, with possible adjustments required for high schools with large student volumes.

"The best place for students is in class, giving them the full benefits of the tremendous work of Manitoba teachers and providing parents and caregivers with certainty that their children are receiving the best education possible," Goertzen says.

Kindergarten to Grade 8 students will have a full day of school, five days a week.

Goertzen says high school students will also be in schools full time if the schools can follow provincial health protocols including distancing. Goertzen believes that many schools will be able to provide in-class learning for five days a week, but notes that large schools may need to make adjustments in electives or possiblly create remote learning plans. 

There are no class size limits currently recommended by the province, but students will need to maintain distancing. A minimum of one meter of distance between students will be required, but two meters are recommended. 

Additional cleaning measures will be taken in each school.

The province says divisions must ensure that all students have access to technology to learning remotely if needed.

“Manitoba Education and Public Health are working with divisions and individual schools to ensure that as many students as possible return to classroom learning full-time,” Goertzen says. “Divisions have been working diligently this summer on their individual plans for September, and are refining details for communication, screening, hand hygiene, physical distancing, the use of cohorts and outbreak management to be followed at every one of their schools.”

The province is asking schools to stagger lunch and recess to avoid large gatherings of students.

The province is asking parents, who are able, to drive their children to school. Students who need to take the bus will be assigned seating, Busses will be operating in a reduced capacity and be regularly cleaned. 

The province is sharing that there is $48 million in savings available to ensure that schools are ready for changes that may come up in the future.

Goertzen is thanking those who provided their time and support, such as unions and school administrators, to help the province create an education plan.

Goertzen is asking for parents, students, and teachers to be flexible with challenges that may arise throughout the school year.

Each school division will have more information regarding their specific plans, and Goertzen notes that each individual school will have its own back-to-school plan due to varying student volumes and school sizes.

He adds that if a student is sick, it is important for them to stay home. Masks are not required for students to wear in the fall. Goertzen is anticipating a higher absentee rate this fall for both students and staff in schools. 

Goertzen says that the province is currently discussing mental health supports for students. 

The province shares that their Welcoming Our Students Back plan is available online for Manitobans to view. Currently, the province has three response levels developed in case health officals decide to roll back from in-class learning.