The Manitoba Teachers’ Society has renewed calls to shuffle all K-12 students in COVID-19 hot spots to full-time remote learning.
Following Thursday's announcement of a record number of new daily cases since mid-December, the union put out a release in favour of halting in-person instruction.
Schools in both Winnipeg and Southern health regions should immediately be downgraded to critical (code red) on the province’s pandemic response system, said president James Bedford, who represents 16,000 public school teachers.
"If we don’t do something now, then we’re very likely looking at (potentially) having to shut down for the rest of the school year," Bedford told the Free Press.
He said it’s been "deeply troubling" to hear from more teachers home sick with COVID-19 over the last two weeks than he has during any other time in the school year. The union believes the safest thing to do is close schools in high-risk areas for at least two weeks to avoid the crisis situation experienced by Alberta and Ontario in recent weeks, Bedford said.
All schools in Ontario are teaching students online; schools in Alberta will go online as of Friday.
More than three months ago, the union wrote to the province to call for the prioritization of teachers in the vaccination rollout.
While many school employees are eligible because of their age, or because their home or workplace is in a designated priority hot spot, not all staff can get a vaccine.
Last week, the premier hinted a plan to immunize school staff in North Dakota was in the works; but no new details have been released since his comments.
Bedford said he was expecting to hear more details about the option this week.
He added Thursday, "I certainly hope we don’t see 20,000 people lined up at the border Saturday, expecting to get vaccinated."
At least 574 new cases among school staff and students have been reported since April 21, according to the province's online school dashboard. The dashboard indicates 17 schools are fully operating in remote learning at present, while there are three active outbreaks.
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.