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WINNIPEG -- Starting next Tuesday, nearly all students in the Hanover School Division from K to 12 will be moving to remote learning, as the region confronts some of the highest COVID-19 infection rates in the country.

“Acting on the advice of the chief provincial public health officer, schools have notified families and staff. This change is being made in light of the widespread community transmission of COVID-19,” reads a letter from Shelley Amos, the Interim Superintendent of the Hanover School Division.

Hanover is the largest rural school division in Manitoba and serves 8,500 students. It includes communities like Blumenort, Niverville and Steinbach, a city with a 40 per cent test positivity rate.

Despite that sobering statistic, the province said there has not been widespread transmission within schools.

Nineteen schools in the division are affected by the announcement, along with one in the Division Scholaire Franco-Manitobaine, and eight independent schools.

The province is making an exception for the children of frontline workers.

In a statement, the Manitoba government said it will accommodate, “where possible, K-6 children of critical services workers who cannot make alternative care arrangements.”

Students over the age of 12 whose parents are critical services workers, or children with disabilities will also be accommodated.

According to the province’s pandemic response plan, critical services workers include health care workers, teachers and school administrators, police officers and corrections workers, first responders, child protection workers, grocery store staff, frontline natural resource workers and gas station attendants.

Priority will be given to the children of health care providers.

“Other critical services workers will be eligible and prioritized by schools/school divisions based on local needs and contexts,” according to the pandemic response plan.

The province said under the ‘critical’ or ‘red’ level the school division doesn’t have to provide transportation, however, the Hanover Interim Superintendent said, “We are exploring our options and the possibility of continuing minimal bus transportation.”

Schools will stay open Monday.

“We do understand and agree that this may create hardship for some families,” said Amos. “We appreciate your continued partnership and willingness to adapt and respond to these evolving conditions."