More Winnipeg schools shift to online learning as COVID-19 cases climb

More Winnipeg schools are moving to remote learning starting on Monday, facing a growing number of COVID-19 cases and staff absences because of self-isolation requirements. 

Collège Jeanne-Sauvé and Lavallee School in the Louis Riel School Division are both transitioning to learning from home until May 17, the division announced on Friday.

Louis Riel School Division superintendent Christian Michalik said in a letter to parents the decision was made because of the growing number of cases and contacts.

In addition to staff on leave to self-isolate, a growing number of students were already being kept home by their parents, the letter said.

Staffing could become unsustainable without a remote learning period, Michalik’s letter said.

As of Friday there were 428 staff absences across the school division, and 111 of the absences were not filled, he wrote.

The school division’s website says there are 75 close contacts associated with various cases at Lavallee School, and 20 contacts associated with cases at Collège Jeanne-Sauvé.

Another school in the division, ​École Marie-Anne Gaboury, moved to remote learning last Monday, after more than a quarter of the school’s student population was required to self-isolate at home due to potential exposure.

South Pointe School in the Pembina Trails School Division also announced earlier this week that it will move to remote learning as of Monday.

The decision was made to minimize community transmission and prevent staffing shortages due to self-isolation requirements, the school’s website says.

Dr. Jazz Atwal, Manitoba’s acting deputy chief public health officer, said Friday that the province will move to close schools right now, although some teachers have called for that.

A full shift to remote learning could have unintended effects on students, Atwal said.

“That has a negative impact on youth and child and development, on education. And for a lot of people, school is one of the safest and best places to be.”

In the two-week period leading up to April 28, there were 416 COVID-19 cases in Manitoba schools involving students and staff, including 171 involving more contagious coronavirus variants, provincial data says.

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