January 10, 2022
Treaty 1 and Dakota Territory, Homeland of the Métis Nation, Winnipeg MB—The Manitoba NDP is calling on the PC government to implement tangible measures to make schools safer and ease the burden of at-home learning, like a dedicated benefit for parents to help cover the costs of at-home learning.
“We all want to see kids back in the classroom, but it has to be safe. Government should be focused on doing whatever is possible to help kids succeed at home and at school, but the PC’s are putting their political fortunes ahead of Manitoba families,” said NDP Leader Wab Kinew. “There are things we can do right now to make this period less expensive for families and less challenging. While students, parents and teachers buy the government time Premier Stefanson should be rolling out safety measures that help kids get back to learning safely.”
Last week, in a move that evoked memories of Brian Pallister ignoring health experts' advice last winter, PC premier Heather Stefanson closed schools for an extra week and yet refused to tighten public health orders. She failed to give any specifics as to how her government would support schools as they scramble to prepare classrooms over the coming days.
Kinew offered five practical solutions the government could deliver this week to help families cope with the delay in school and ensure schools are able to return safely.
• Government should design a dedicated benefit for parents to help cover the costs of athome learning. A “Learn-at-Home” fund could see Manitoba families receive supports so that kids who need technology to do remote learning get the actual tech they need.
• Government should ramp up efforts to source things that keep students and teacher safe, like rapid tests and high quality masks.
• Government should increase investment in upgrading school facilities, including to improve ventilation systems in classrooms.
• Government should publicly release data about infection so parents can assess the risk for their kids, and create a system to track and record rapid antigen test results.
• Government should invest in schools so we can provide sick pay coverage, hire more mental health counsellors and to put substitute teachers on contract for the remainder of the school year to help deal with staffing shortages.
“These are practical, reasonable steps the PCs could put in place this week, if they were motivated to help Manitobans,” said NDP Education Critic Nello Altomare. “It’s not enough to push a deadline back, the province has to be proactive in finding solutions. Premier Stefanson must deliver on these steps now so kids, families and schools can get back to learning.”