Manitoba schools are being instructed to shut down their play structures due to the ongoing threat of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
The Manitoba School Board Association has told all school divisions in the province to suspend access to play structures and — where possible — dismantle equipment in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
"Effective March 23, 2020, all school divisions have been asked to close or limit access to play structures as quickly as possible," MSBA President Alan Campbell said in a written statement sent to the Free Press.
"While green spaces will be maintained where feasible, the objective is to reduce shared play structure surfaces, benches, etc., as areas where social distancing could be hindered and COVID-19 could be transmitted from person to person."
The Winnipeg, Rolling River and River East Transcona divisions, among others, have announced their intention to comply with the recommendation.
Radean Carter, senior information officer for the Winnipeg School Division, said staff are working quickly to print signs warning children to stay away from the structures.
"Manitoba School Boards Association risk management team has recommended that all school divisions close playgrounds and remove swings. Our building department is working on having signs printed and laminated to put up at our 89 play structures and is removing swings as requested," Carter said in a written statement.
Lisa Herie has two children — one in kindergarten, one in Grade 3 — enrolled in River East Transcona. She said the decision did not come as a surprise to her and she’s pleased to see Manitoba schools taking this step.
She added that her children are disappointed they can’t play on the structures, but that she and her husband have had conversations with them, so they understand the serious nature of the pandemic.
"They were already aware we weren’t going to parks anyway, because we weren’t supposed to be around other people. They’ve been well-versed with what we can and can’t do, and the why," Herie said.
"They’re disappointed; they want to be able to go and burn some steam off at the park, but they understand why they can’t, that it’s serious, and there’s a good reason for it and it’s not just because Mom and Dad don’t want to go to the park."
Herie said that while practising social distancing in recent days, her family has had to get creative in order to keep the children occupied and entertained.
"Last week we threw the sleds in the trunk and took them to an empty hill where they could toboggan for a bit. They have a yard to run in. We’ll go on more walks with them," she said.
"We’re finding things to keep them moving and still go outside…. It’s just part of the challenge."
In a written statement posted to its website, the River East Transcona School Division called the play structures "high touch areas" when announcing its decision to comply with the recommendation.
"These structures are high touch areas and with the public health directive to maintain a 2-metre distance, we encourage parents, students and community members to instead use the open large spaces such as fields and parks," the statement reads.
On Tuesday, Manitoba announced its 21st presumptive or confirmed case of COVID-19.
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