Winnipeg School Division plans mock code red remote learning exercise

Manitoba’s largest school division plans to have teachers walk students through an in-class exercise next week meant to simulate what it could be like if the entire school system is forced to learn remotely.

The Winnipeg School Division emailed teachers late this week to tell them about the in-class mock code red exercise on Tuesday morning.

The idea is to give students a hands-on crash course of what learning might be like if the province quickly moved the school system into the red, or critical, level of Manitoba’s pandemic response system.

“We expect there to be some bumps [in] learning, and by doing a practice for a full morning, hopefully most of those bumps can be identified and ironed out before we have to do the real thing, should that happen,” said Radean Carter, a spokesperson for the division, via text message Friday morning.

Carter equated the exercise to the kind of practice students get during fire drills.

Students will be seated at their desks and practise logging in on their devices and accessing online platforms and lessons as if they were at home. Teachers will be present to help out if students encounter difficulties, Carter said.

Kindergarten to Grade 12 students who would normally be in class will participate, though some high school students who are on their home-learning day on Tuesday will remain home, she said. 

Since students returned to school this fall, high schoolers have largely been on blended-learning schedules, doing a mix of remote and in-class learning, while younger grades have typically remained in classrooms. 

The Winnipeg School Division exercise will happen 10 days from when provincewide code red restrictions are set to expire, though Manitoba’s chief public health officer said this week to expect some restrictions to remain in place.

Manitoba has seen triple-digit daily case numbers since Oct. 19. The average over the five or so weeks since then works out to over 300 daily cases.

About 1,200 Manitobans age zero to 19 have tested positive, or roughly eight per cent of cases to date, though officials have said only a few instances of school-based transmission have been confirmed. The source of infection in the majority of student cases has been attributed to exposures out in the community or in the home.

The Hanover School Division recently went fully online, as the Southern Health region, of which it is a part, has seen test positivity rates soar this month.

The province has acknowledged it is mulling extending the Christmas break for students, though officials haven’t yet said that will occur for certain.

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