The Manitoba Teachers' Society (MTS) is calling on the provincial government to declare Code Red on the Pandemic Response System for all public schools in the City of Winnipeg.
The society says will monitor test positivity rates in communities outside of Winnipeg, to expand the call for Code Red as needed.
MTS sys it's repeatedly called for teachers and all school staff to be given priority access to COVID vaccines, and yet the government has dragged its feet, endangering the lives of those who attend and work in our schools. Even if all teachers were vaccinated today, it would be mid to late May before the shots became effective.
"Priority vaccination was the answer weeks ago and the government refused to act," says MTS President James Bedford. "Vaccines alone will no longer make the difference. That is abundantly clear."
While the province maintains that schools are safe and not vectors of transmission for COVID, the city's test positivity rate is on the rise, and with it the number of cases in schools.
"We can no longer take this government at its word," says Bedford. "Variants of concern are impacting younger and younger Manitobans. We must use every means at our disposal to arrest the virus' spread and keep our children safe."
The move to Code Red would serve as a necessary circuit breaker, permitting time for vaccines and other public health measures to dampen the third wave. It would also relieve systemic pressure in education related to issues such as backfilling staff who are self-isolating, intense demands on principals and vice principals for communication and contact tracing, student absenteeism, teacher workload due to instructional disruption, and the list goes on.
"We know this will be disruptive for teachers, students and families, however in the interest of public health and safety, we must absorb the impact of this change. It's true that the best place for a student to learn is in the classroom with their teacher, but this is not business as usual."
Bedford proposes that the Code Red take effect on Tuesday, May 4, 2021, to ensure that teachers have a few days to shift from in-class to online platforms, and that families have the opportunity to make childcare and other arrangements.
"The government must act to prioritize the health and safety of children and teachers. And it must do so now."