May 3, 2021
Treaty 1 Territory, Homeland of the Métis Nation, Winnipeg MB— Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew and Education Critic Nello Altomare amplified the voices of educators and school support staff who are feeling abandoned by the PC government. They called on the province to take immediate steps to protect schools by vaccinating all frontline school staff, increasing in-school mental health supports for staff and students and certifying education graduates to fill staffing shortages.
“Teachers and school support staff have reached a breaking point,” said Altomare. “They feel completely abandoned by this PC government that refuses to prioritize their safety. As cases continue to rise in schools and dire staffing shortages make it almost impossible to find substitutes, schools are at a crisis point. This government is acting like there’s nothing they can do but there is: get teachers and school staff vaccinated immediately and recruit substitutes so that kids can stay in classrooms.”
There are 27,000 educators and school staff working in Manitoba, but the province refuses to say how many have been vaccinated. With a new supersite opening in Winnipeg this week, increased shipments of Pfizer and new eligibility for AstraZeneca the province has enough supply to vaccinate every educator and school worker by this weekend, but the Premier wants to send teachers on their own time, and at their own expense, to North Dakota to be vaccinated. This plan has not been approved by the Federal government and has no start date.
Last week 385 education students graduated from Manitoba universities. If the province issued immediate teaching certificates for these graduates it could begin to fill the staffing gaps and ensure that students continue to receive quality classroom instruction. The province must also acknowledge the mental health impacts of working in a school setting. Instead of hiring private out-of-province companies like Morneau Sheppell to provide counselling services, the province could hire registered social workers, counsellors and therapists who have lost work throughout the pandemic, to provide increased mental health supports for students and staff.
“Teachers and school support staff have worked tirelessly to teach and protect our children,” said Kinew. “Educators got families through the worst of this pandemic, but now, while there are vaccines sitting in freezers this government is abandoning them. It’s time for the government to prioritize them.”