On Monday morning, Manitoban students will be back at their desks after two weeks of online learning.

Taking advantage of the natural break, the Province of Manitoba decided to move students in Grades 7 and up online for two weeks knowing that the holidays could have meant more cases of COVID-19. Parents of students in other grades were able to choose to keep their children home to learn or send them to school.

Now, the rest of the students are preparing for their return to the classroom.

"As we make our way through the first couple of weeks of the new year, many of us are looking at the year ahead with a renewed sense of hope and optimism," Louis Riel School Division (LRSD) Superintendent Christian Michalik says in a letter to parents. "I know the holiday break gave me a moment to reflect and recharge, and I hope all of you had the same opportunity to find joy wherever you could."

Michalik says Manitoba is "not out of the woods yet" but their schools will be doing their part to keep students safe.

While optimistic about the return to school, divisions, including LRSD and the Winnipeg School Division (WSD), are preparing for a return to Orange.

"Schools are advised to ensure physical distancing (two metres), students and staff need to wear masks and wash their hands frequently. All parents are requested to keep their children home if they have any symptoms of sickness. It is important for everyone to follow the health measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 and help stay safe," a spokesperson for WSD says. 

Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Jazz Atwal says the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in school is lower than the risk in the general population. 

"The measures we have in place, with the distancing in place, with the masks, with limiting classroom cohort interactions make schools a safe place. So we are comfortable saying that," the doctor says.

Many high school students have been working from a blended model with some learning from home and others in the classroom on alternating days throughout the school year. Kindergarten to Grade 8 students are anticipated to return to their regular learning, but parents can speak with their schools to have their children learn remotely.

While most students have been away for one month, in the Hanover School Division students who have been away since November 24 will be returning to schools in person.