Students, teachers and guardians will soon learn more details about the back-to-school season, a government source told the Free Press.
The source indicated the province plans to reveal its blueprint for the 2021-22 academic year — which will be the third consecutive school year affected by COVID-19 — on Thursday afternoon.
Since the final bell rang in June, school administrators have anticipated a return to classroom instruction will occur with limited public health restrictions, similar to how K-12 classes resumed after Labour Day in 2020.
Last year, Manitoba students experienced the first day of school in the caution level, or code yellow, although schools were soon downgraded on the colour-coded pandemic response system.
Code Yellow, which indicates community transmission is low, requires schools be open with physical distancing and cohorting measures in place.
The majority of the 2020-21 school year was spent in code orange in Winnipeg, but students in the provincial capital wrapped up in code red in June, with all but the youngest learners whose parents are critical service workers, students with disabilities, and pupils deemed to be at-risk studying at home.
The province has confirmed remote learning will continue, at the very least, for students who are immunocompromised and request support through the Manitoba Remote Learning Support Centre this year.
The vice-president of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society wants to see the blueprint ensure adequate funding for physical distancing measures and staffing needs, as well as supports for student and staff mental health and recovery learning.
"We still believe it’s a good idea for children under 12 (who are not currently eligible to get a vaccine) to be wearing masks, but we’ll have to wait and see," said Nathan Martindale Tuesday.
Martindale added the union would also like to see older students and staff who are not vaccinated continue to wear masks at school.
Also Tuesday, the Ontario government unveiled its back-to-school plan, which will provide families with an option to either send their students back to school full time or enrol in remote learning. Manitoba’s eastern neighbour will continue to enforce a mask mandate for students who are in Grade 1 and up while recommending kindergartners wear face coverings indoors, but such personal protective equipment will be optional outdoors.
Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press