Anxious wait for school to start on Manitoba First Nations

By | August 27, 2020

WINNIPEG — With September approaching and the number of COVID-19 cases rising in the province, concerns are mounting for parents on Manitoba First Nations about sending kids back to school.

“There is a lot of fear and anxiety in terms of what to do,” Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre Executive Director Charles Cochrane told CTV News on Thursday.

Cochrane said there are around 17,000 students who go to school on First Nations in the province. Each individual community is coming up with its own plan for the fall.

“A lot of our leaders in our community are thinking with caution.”

Cochrane said some schools may be closed until at least mid-September. While others have no plans to reopen and will stick to remote learning instead.

“We do have the capability for providing high school programming for those students in Grade 9 to 12,” said Cochrane. “Internet access and technology access. They’re a challenge. But it’s about trying to meet the needs of children.

Some First Nations are planning on staggering students in the classroom.

“We’ve made all the preparations that we can in terms of having all the PPE and masks and all the sanitizing requirements,” said Cochrane.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged $2 billion to help students return to school safely. Of that money, $120 million was set aside for First Nations nationwide.

“(Manitoba has) about 25 per cent of K-12 numbers across the country,” said Cochrane.

“This announcement certainly doesn’t hurt,” he added. However, Cochrane questioned whether it’s enough to keep students safe.

There are no known cases of COVID-19 on First Nations in Manitoba, which he said is the result of good leadership.

“They’re there for a reason. We support any decisions that come from our leaders throughout First Nations in Manitoba.”

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