Manitoba’s teachers are facing unprecedented pressures and workload in the classroom during the COVID-19 pandemic. Teachers are expected to balance distance learning and in-class teaching, resulting in high work hours and burnout.
Over the course of the pandemic, the provincial government has repeatedly ignored the requests of leaders, educators and support staff. Educators have become the de facto enforcers of public health guidelines, and in an effort to prevent further spread in schools, they are completing contact tracing due to overloads on the public health system.
If the provincial government was a student, it would be marked absent. Manitoba’s school divisions were individually required to come up with safe re-opening policies, resulting in inconsistencies across the education system. The provincial government even provided many schools with expired or defective PPE, which meant teachers had to purchase PPE for both themselves and their classrooms.
In August, the federal government allocated $85.4 million that hasn’t been passed on to Manitoba schools. The provincial government is unable to say how the money has been spent, and an access to information request submitted by the provincial Liberal Party said there were no relevant records pertaining to these funds.
Delays in COVID-19 testing are keeping teachers out of school. Some schools have been directed not to ask for substitute teachers as divisions report they have none available. Delays in contact tracing place an enormous number of students, teachers, and their families at risk.
As a second wave sweeps the province of Manitoba, the provincial government has neglected to respond to educators’ requests for funding and policy to be directed towards the health of students and teachers. The education system has passed its breaking point.
In an effort to withhold spending to balance the budget, the provincial government is risking the collapse of many social and public services, including the education system.
We support the demands of the 400+ educators, school leaders, and support staff outlined in their letter addressed to Premier Pallister and Minister Goertzen on November 9, 2020:
- Reduction in class sizes through the hiring of additional educators and support staff
- Sustainable workloads for teachers, which includes reasonable classroom/learning arrangements
- A golden universal standard for a minimum 2 meters distancing for all students
- Supports for students with additional needs and supports for mental health for students and staff
- Clear policy for substitute teachers recruitment, retention, and safety
- Clear, evidence-based, policy from the province concerning performing arts education
- Digital equity for students and staff who need access to devices and the internet
- Identify and address ventilation concerns in schools
- Public messaging, education, and data that is clear, concise, transparent, accessible, and timely
- Prompt contact tracing and quick COVID-19 testing of staff and students
Additionally, we further demand:
- Immediately release details on what has happened with the $85.4 million of federal money earmarked for school COVID-19 preparedness
- Provide adequate PPE to meet the needs of schools
- Conduct an urgent review of the province’s PPE procurement methods and institute a quality assurance process to ensure no more defective or expired PPE is supplied to schools, child care centres, health centres or anywhere else
- Drastically expand the number of contact tracers
- Prioritize teachers and school staff, along with medical staff, when conducting PCR testing for COVID.
- Commit to making rapid-testing available to teachers and school staff, along with medical staff and other front-line workerS
- Give every student the option to conduct their learning remotely
- Provide sick time coverage to all educators including temporary workers, substitute teachers, and support staff
We are all in this together!