Manitoba's public schools will be closed for three weeks, starting March 23, as a proactive measure to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
"Today we are announcing that we will be suspending classes in Manitoba effective Mar. 23 for a period of three weeks — a week before spring break and week after the regularly scheduled spring break," Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen said at a press conference Friday afternoon at the Manitoba legislature, alongside Premier Brian Pallister, Health Min. Cameron Friesen and chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin.
"Foremost we are thinking of the health and well-being of all Manitobans," Goertzen said.
He said the province has been proactive in its response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The announcement comes a day after the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Winnipeg. Two others remain presumptive.
"We believe we need to stay ahead of the virus instead of running behind it," Goertzen said.
The provincial government believes its public schools are safe and that the measure is a proactive one that gives parents and school staff time to prepare, he said.
"We will be asking teachers to be on the job the week before and after the regularly scheduled spring break to prepare lessons for students to do at home where possible," and for support staff to prepare schools for the return of students by doing cleaning and maintenance, Goertzen said. Childcare centres in schools will remain open during that time.
"This step is being taken with the community interest in mind and that it will lessen the impact of the (spread of the virus) on all community members," said Goertzen.
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.
Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.
Updated on Friday, March 13, 2020 at 2:54 PM CDT: Updates with news public schools will close.
3:37 PM: Updated.