A Whole Bunch Of Reasons Why Manitoba’s Back To School Plan Is The Worst

by Cookie

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Like me, you probably either watched or heard about the giant pile of crap that was the press conference held by our Minister of Education and Chief Public Health officer yesterday.

Like me, you probably walked away asking yourself what in the hell these people do all day besides pat themselves on the back and congratulate one another on being masters of the universe.

And like me, you feel a total lack of confidence in the viability of the plan in terms of keeping your children safe and completely disappointed in the lack of options, resources and empathy presented by Kelvin Goerzten.

Manitoba can and should do better than this. In terms of education and child care during this pandemic they have demonstrated an unwillingness to invest in our children and almost zero consideration for the challenges facing the average family in this province.

In no particular order, here is everything I think is wrong with what we were presented with yesterday:

They are not mandating masks.  This is unbelievable. Schools have been implementing dress codes for years that supposedly promote a “safe and respectful” learning atmosphere by policing the shoulders and knees of little girls, and you are going to try and tell me that when it really matters, we can’t or won’t enforce a temporary rule of wearing masks in schools? Now, when it really counts, and all the public health recommendations state that when a distance of two meters can’t be maintained -SPOILER ALERT- it can’t- masks should be worn?

They are refusing to invest in, develop and implement an online learning option.  This one is really beyond me.  This province has had almost half of a year to get their shit in a neat pile and figure this out. Other school systems right here in Canada and abroad had this figured out in a matter of weeks. It is quite obvious to me that it is possible, but for some reason Manitoba refuses to get on board.  Considering Goertzen spent some time during the pandemic rubbing elbows with the likes of people who would rather privatize education or create a bigger homeschool community I wonder exactly if there is another agenda here? Either way, the fact that this option has not yet been developed is ridiculous given the very real possibility of a second wave that could put us all back in lockdown this fall or winter.

We were reminded that he gave us notice 6 weeks ago to figure out backup childcare scenarios and that we need to be flexible.  This one was especially rich. The Pallister government has shown pretty much exactly zero consideration to the difficulties facing families during the pandemic. They cut funding and subsidies to nursery schools and daycares, leaving many people already without affordable and accessible primary childcare options, and no idea what to do in case of Plan B.  Goerzten sat there with his arms crossed and the condescending expression of a parent scolding a child while he reminded us that we’ve known for 6 weeks to figure out what we’ll do when we inevitably need to keep our kids home due to illness or isolation measures. We were told that we need to make arrangements with our employers, but there should have been some sort of collaboration with the Minister of Labour to protect employees faced with this situation. Why is there not a mandate that parents faced with these challenges are protected form job and income loss, or must be allowed to work from home wherever possible? It feels like this government is more concerned with protecting its budget and systems more than it is interested in protecting the people it is supposed to support.

There was no commitment to an investment in more teachers, custodial staff, support staff or to reducing already overcrowded classrooms. Why are we not addressing the issue of reducing class sizes and ensuring we have increased staffing levels to cope with higher workloads, higher absenteeism, and higher classroom needs? Who is going to provide all of these individual desks that don’t exist in elementary schools? These aren’t new issues, but have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Overall, as a parent I am deeply concerned over the lack of answers received yesterday. I am deeply concerned by the apathetic stance taken in regards to the health of our children. They are basically asking parents to participate in an epidemiological experiment with our most precious commodities as our subjects, without any other provincially supported options.  My confidence that this is going to go ok is somewhere in negative integers.

Final Grade:  F