Manitoba students in the upper grades, along with the possibility for elementary school students, will be learning online during the two weeks following the holiday break.

Grades 7 to 12 will be conducted online beginning January 4 for a two-week period. 

Students in Kindergarten to Grades Six are not required to learn online for these two weeks but the opportunity will be available for them.

Grade Seven was the marker for remote learning due to them being 12 years old or older and their ability to stay home alone. Parental and school discretion will be used if a student is younger than 12 years old and in the affected grades.

The province says the decision for older students to learn remotely is due to older students having a higher incidence of contracting the virus, a larger number of close contacts and are more likely to transmit the virus to others. This could be due to things such as working after-school jobs at grocery stores or other places.

In all grades, if a student must have in-person learning, such as an instance where a student has a disability, the student will be able to attend the school in person or in another classroom setting.

“Our government is committed to protecting our schools and providing the resources needed to keep students learning and staff supported during these difficult times,” Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen says in a statement. “Manitobans can count on us to support our staff, students and their families as we navigate this unconventional school year together.”

There is the possibility that remote learning could be extended past January 15, but the province intends to go back to regular, in-person learning after the two weeks.

During this time, Educational Assistants will take on the role of "checking in" on students and offering tutoring or other supports that a teacher may not be able to.

Since the fall, school divisions have been distributing surveys, asking parents if they would prefer their students to learn remotely or in person. These surveys will give the schools an idea of which students in Kindergarten to Grade 6 would be learning remotely or in-person. Parents of students in these grades can also choose where they want their students to learn if they did not take the survey. They can also change their preference. The province has not given a deadline yet.

The province will rely on the Provincial Remote Learning Support Centre to aid school divisions and school staff. Goertzen says the teachers hired will have a variety of specialties to match the needs of students. French-speaking teachers will need to be hired as well. As each classroom is doing its own assignments, Goertzen says teachers may wish to assign projects to last those two weeks instead of the usual learning schedule to assure learning is not lost despite the change. 

Goertzen says the province will be using $100 million from its Safe Schools Fund that was announced in August, to support schools.

“We are pleased to confirm the full allocation of our government’s $100-million investment, along with $85.4 million in federal funding, to keep our schools healthy and safe.”

The province says its confirmed allocations to support schools are:

  • 2019-20 savings by school divisions – $48 million;
  • per-pupil allocations for school divisions and independent schools
  • $76 million including $44 million to specifically address staffing needs;
  • Safe Restart Contingency Fund, application-based funding to support emerging needs
  • $39.4 million;
  • Manitoba Remote Learning Support Centre – $10 million; and
  • personal protective equipment – $12 million

Divisions and independent schools can apply for additional funding to cover costs not specified with the Safe Schools Fund.