A recent Auditor General’s report found that Manitoba’s education system was unprepared for the pandemic, but despite this, it was able to create an effective response.
Tyson Shtykalo’s report says the Department of Education and Early Learning has not put in place a coordinated contingency plan for the school system.
Shtykalo said the department failed to consider the risks ahead of time and was unprepared for remote learning.
“We expected that plans would be in place to ensure that a consistent level of high-quality education would be available to all students in the province in the event of an emergency, such as a pandemic,” Shtykalo said in a statement. communicated.
Although he doesn’t have a plan, he said the department was able to work on plans “on the fly.”
Shtykalo said a contingency plan was developed in a timely manner and the department “maintained an incident management system, provided support to schools and consulted with stakeholders to identify risks.”
As part of the report, Shtykalo also found that the department had yet to begin recovery efforts.
“The pandemic has had impacts on student learning and mental health.”
The report says there should have been work with schools and school divisions to ensure weaknesses in the plans were addressed so they can be mitigated in the future.
The report focused only on the ministry’s work and did not examine other ministries such as the office of the province’s chief public health officer, schools or specific school divisions.
As part of the report, Shtykalo included eight recommendations to respond to the long-term impact of the pandemic and to prepare for a potential future pandemic or similar emergency.
· Development of an emergency management program;
· Define roles and responsibilities to respond to a pandemic or similar emergency;
Ensure that all schools and school divisions have plans in place to deal with a pandemic and ensure they align with the department;
· Develop a communication strategy;
· Work with schools and school divisions to determine what data they would need during a pandemic and how that data would be obtained in a timely manner;
· Work with stakeholders to develop plans to address the long-term impacts of the pandemic;
· Work with stakeholders to collect data and use it to inform plans from the previous recommendation; and
· Work with the Ministry of Labour, Consumer Protection and Government Services to improve internet connectivity to provide greater access to online learning for all students in the province.
The full report can be viewed here.
CTV News has reached out to the Manitoba Teachers’ Society for comment, but they said they couldn’t comment on the matter at this time.
In a statement to CTV News, Education Minister Wayne Ewasko said ensuring students were learning throughout the pandemic, while prioritizing health and safety, was a key priority.
“The review period was from January 2020 to February 2021, during the pre-pandemic period and the first two waves of the pandemic,” he said.
He said the province was not focused on recovery because the second wave had just ended, the vaccination campaign was just beginning and a third wave was underway.
“As part of a whole-of-government response, we continue to work in partnership with public health officials, school divisions and schools. Additionally, the ministry has provided detailed guidance to the education sector, in consultation with provincial public health officials and the sector and has created a response planning team to lead this work. This continues as public health orders evolve.
He said the provincial government has invested in education since the end of the review period and the government plans to act on the findings and recommendations of the audit.