WINNIPEG — School divisions are bracing for a number of big changes this September, not the least of which is making sure they have enough staff to keep classes running.
Keeping kids apart and making sure people stay home when they’re sick may require additional staff.
That means some divisions are hiring as part of their back to school plans.
Working off a blueprint from the province and public health officials, school divisions across Manitoba have been busy preparing to welcome back students.
In addition to physical distancing and mask use, the plans they’ve made include staggering schedules to keep groups of kids apart in schools and making sure staff and students stay home when they’re sick.
Louis Riel School Division superintendent Christian Michalik said making the plan work means hiring a combination of additional educational assistants and teachers for the extra homerooms and cohorts schools are creating for physical distancing.
“That’s the next hurdle, as we’re finalizing the plans,” said Michalik. “We’re getting close to having that exact number to how many additional homerooms, groupings have we created and getting the staff to supervise instruction.”
Additional teachers are also being hired to fill in for people who get sick.
“We’re going to hire on some supply teachers in a different way and assign them to schools so they’re a part of learning with us,” said Michalik. “The larger pool of supply teachers as well will also be assigned a family of schools and learn along with us.”
More bus drivers and custodial staff will be needed in the Seine River School Division.
Superintendent Michael Borgfjord said additional EAs and teachers will also be required to allow for physical distancing, where larger classes may need to be split, and to fill in for people who get sick or are required to self-isolate.
“We’re really stressing that if people have any symptoms whatsoever, they’re staying home regardless,” said Borgfjord. “We don’t want somebody feeling obligated that they have to come in because there might not be a substitute or there might not be someone there.”
James Bedford, president of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society, said school divisions are hiring more supply teachers than in previous years. Bedford said they’re brought in to work full-time, sometimes without getting a specific location of work.
“So the idea is they could work as a substitute or they could in fact be assigned to a class,” said Bedford.
He said there’s already concern over a shortage of substitute teachers in some areas which could be heightened during the pandemic.
When asked by CTV News about the need for additional staffing, the Manitoba government said in a statement the province will continue to work with school divisions to address their needs so students can return safely to school.
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