Sask, Manitoba take different approaches on education

With Omicron variant on the rise: Sask sticks with in-class learning, Manitoba on remote learning after extended Christmas break

January 10, 2022, 7:32 am
Kevin Weedmark


Saskatchewan and Manitoba are taking different approaches to education in light of the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, with Saskatchewan sticking with online learning and Manitoba on remote learning initially, after extended Christmas break.

Sask stays with in-person learning
Saskatchewan’s provincial government has decided to stick with in-person learning in schools across the province. “We know that in-class learning is critically important to students’ overall mental and physical health and development,” Education Minister Dustin Duncan said Wednesday.

“That is why the government of Saskatchewan is supporting all students and staff in finding ways to reduce risk while we learn to live with Covid in our everyday lives. School staff have done a phenomenal job in ensuring our schools remain as safe as possible while continuing to ensure that parents have access to timely information about Covid in our communities.”

Positive Covid-19 test results for school staff or students must be reported to the local school office. The school will then send a notification to parents of students that may be considered close contacts.

Fully vaccinated students and staff who are close contacts will follow the current process of self-monitoring. They are able to attend school and other activities as long as they remain asymptomatic. Fully vaccinated students and staff who test positive are required to self-isolate for five days.

In the case of an outbreak in a school, which is defined as three or more cases in a class or cohort of students, public health will continue to investigate and may advise further mitigation measures for either the class or the entire school.

School staff continue to have access to disposable, medical grade surgical masks and more than 1.6 million rapid antigen tests have been distributed to families through elementary schools since the federal allocation began arriving in Saskatchewan. Rapid tests will now also be available in high schools with an additional 250,000 rapid tests currently being distributed to schools across the province.

Manitoba moves to remote learning
The Manitoba government is shifting to a one-week remote learning period for most Manitoba students after the holiday break to ensure schools can implement enhanced measures for in-person learning, Premier Heather Stefanson announced Wednesday.

“Our government’s number one priority is to protect the health and well-being of all Manitobans, especially our children, youth and most vulnerable citizens,” said Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson.

“Today we are announcing a slight adjustment for the return to classes to give schools additional time to implement enhanced protocols to ensure in-person learning for all students can continue under our pandemic plans and to give public health more time to learn about the Omicron variant’s effects in Manitoba. We know our children learn best in a classroom setting and it is our goal to ensure they can return to the classroom as quickly as possible.”

Effective Jan. 10, a phased-in approach will be applied to allow students of critical service workers in kindergarten to Grade 6 and all high-risk students and students with special learning needs in kindergarten to Grade 12 to attend school if no alternate care is available. Current plans are to have all other students return to in-person learning on Jan. 17.

Manitoba Education said it has heard from stakeholders this phased-in approach will give school divisions more time to address expected staffing shortages and develop plans for the implementation of enhanced measures to reduce the spread of Covid-19. The ministry said this will also allow schools time to prepare to move to the Restricted (Orange) level on Manitoba’s Pandemic Response System.

“We know in-person learning is best for students but we are still learning about how the Omicron variant will affect our health-care system and Manitobans in the longer term,” said Dr. Jazz Atwal, deputy chief provincial public health officer. “This change will allow us more time to study the data we have and provide any needed additional advice to the education sector and families as we go forward.”