Three weeks away, still no decision on extended Christmas break for students

The holiday break in Manitoba is now three weeks away, but officials still haven’t made a decision on whether students will be getting an extended break this year.

The chief provincial public health officer and the Manitoba premier floated the idea 10 days ago, as a way of counteracting a potential increase in COVID-19 cases that are triggered by people gathering over the holidays.

“(Over) the holiday break, we’re going to have again strong messaging that there can’t be a lot of gatherings, we know it’s going to be challenging for people and probably there will be gatherings that occur,” chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said on Nov. 17. “So giving an extended time after that break may be able to give us an incubation period after a large amount of gathering and may offset some of that.”

Read more: Longer holiday break could be key to school staffing woes: Manitoba School Boards Association

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In Manitoba, the holiday break is set to start on Dec. 18.

“We’re continuing to look at our numbers but we haven’t landed on a decision on that yet,” Roussin said Friday.

Some school divisions are also sharing plans with parents, should they be forced into remote learning under level red restrictions. Roussin says there is no decision on that yet, but it’s not off the table.

“We’re working on the plan, following our numbers, and will hopefully have some messaging in the relative near future,” he said.

The Manitoba School Boards Association says parents need as much time as possible to plan and prepare for any changes.

“Parents and caregivers need as much notice as possible if there is going to be an amendment to a winter break or remote learning, we’ve made that position very clear to government,” Manitoba School Boards Association president Alan Campbell told Global News.

“I think the more notice, the better. But at the same time, the decision-making process shouldn’t be rushed either.”

Read more: B.C.’s health minister ‘actively considering’ extending students’ annual winter break

The Manitoba Teachers’ Society says discussions are still ongoing with the province.

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“MTS has called for clarity on this matter as soon as possible to permit the province’s 16,000 public school teachers a chance to prepare,” president James Bedford said in an emailed statement.

Over the past two weeks, Global News and 680 CJOB have reached out to the province repeatedly for comment from the education minister, but our interview requests have been denied.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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