Class post-COVID: City school division ponders future


Advertise with us

THE public school system’s COVID-19 scars and the unlikely successes that have come out of emergency pivots are top of mind inside Manitoba’s largest school board, as leaders ponder what a post-pandemic classroom should look like.

Read this article for free:


Already have an account? Log in here »

To continue reading, please subscribe:

Monthly Digital Subscription

$4.75 per week*

  • Enjoy unlimited reading on
  • Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
  • Access News Break, our award-winning app
  • Play interactive puzzles

*Billed as $19.00 plus GST every four weeks. Cancel anytime.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/02/2022 (466 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

THE public school system’s COVID-19 scars and the unlikely successes that have come out of emergency pivots are top of mind inside Manitoba’s largest school board, as leaders ponder what a post-pandemic classroom should look like.

“Public health agencies and leaders around the world are signalling a shift from pandemic response to an endemic plan and response to COVID-19,” wrote Chris Broughton, a trustee in the Winnipeg School Division, about his rationale behind one of several notices of motion he introduced at a board meeting last week.

“The (WSD), and school divisions across the country, need to shift focus from the crisis of the pandemic to planning and implementing a recovery from (its) impacts.”

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Ethan Brinkman, a grade 12 student at Sisler High School, weighed in on what should and shouldn’t be included in a post-COVID learning plan for students.

The document states educators and administrators have undertaken “valiant efforts” to adapt to alternative delivery models, but disruptions have resulted in student disengagement, chronic attendance issues, decreased credit attainment, a decline in academic achievement, and a youth mental health crisis.

It also notes impacts have disproportionately affected families who were at-risk to the above before the pandemic.

Broughton wants his board colleagues to support the development of specific recovery plans for both K-12 education at-large and student mental health, as well as a review of the division’s information technology systems and infrastructure.

An education recovery plan should consider: expanding existing outdoor and land-based teaching opportunities; improving planning for play-based learning; increasing digital literacy resources for educators; ensure equitable access to extracurricular programs; and, introducing alternative learning schedules or extended school year options in some schools, among other items, according to the Ward 2 trustee.

“We have a cookie-cutter school day and we have a cookie-cutter school year. There are some communities where that isn’t the ideal way of delivering education. It doesn’t meet their needs. We need to start seriously thinking about what it is that we’re offering to ensure that every child has the best opportunity to learn and grow,” Broughton said in an interview Monday.

The trustee, who is also a parent in the division, said he has consulted the Royal Society of Canada’s recent report of peer-reviewed research on how COVID-19 has affected children and schools to brainstorm ways to build on WSD’s programs.

He added: “We have to recognize that we went through a profound change just two years ago, and if we can make that significant of a change with intention, these types of things can be done. We just need to put the intention behind them.”

Trustees are slated to debate whether it is time to draw up blueprints for division-wide recovery work and if so, what those documents should entail, at their next regular board meeting March 7.

“The lack of interaction is a big deal,” said Ethan Brinkman, a Grade 12 student at Sisler High School, when asked about the greatest challenge he has faced over the last 23 months.

Brinkman, 18, recently re-enrolled in Sisler after more than a year taking courses via WSD’s virtual school program, owing to a doctor’s note that outlined his challenges with anxiety.

The high school student said one positive thing about the pandemic is it has allowed for more flexible learning options. However, he wonders how economical it would be to continue operating virtual classrooms with live instruction when there is no longer a global health crisis.

One thing Brinkman said he wants schools to leave in the past is cohorting and alternate-day attendance models — measures introduced in 2020-21 to limit contacts and ensure physical distancing of two metres in classrooms.

“Throw it all out… If you were going on a different day than your friends, then you never saw them,” he added.

Andrew Cumming said his children, who are in grades 3, 6, and 8, have missed their friends and school life, and have all had “far too much screen time” in recent months.

“We will have to focus on emotional health, social wellness, and directly supporting recovery learning (in the wake of the pandemic),” said the Winnipeg father. Cumming, however, said he is skeptical about how that can happen, given all of the budget constraints in WSD.

Last week, the board released its draft budget for the 2022-23 academic year.

Despite a decrease in annual operating funding, the financial plan currently ensures existing programs are maintained, as a result of the board voting to axe its full-day kindergarten pilot — which has cost the division around $500,000 annually in recent years — in autumn. As is, there is no room for any additions to the budget.

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

Report Error Submit a Tip


Advertise With Us