Winnipeg school division reintroduces masking as respiratory illnesses continue to hit children

The Louis Riel School Division has reintroduced recommended mask use in its facilities to combat absenteeism, this at a time when the province is seeing fever-induced seizures spike at HSC Childrens’ Hospital. @_MorganModjeski reports.

By Morgan Modjeski

Respiratory illnesses and influenza are hitting Manitoba kids hard. One Winnipeg school division has now reintroduced a mask recommendation to combat the spread of illness and keep kids healthy in the classroom.

On Tuesday, Louis Riel School Division trustees voted to “strongly recommend the wearing of masks in all divisional facilities, including buses,” as opposed to masking based on personal preference. Superintendent Christian Michalik says the division wants to keep kids in the classroom, as absenteeism can put a student’s education at risk.

“Essentially, what we’ve been seeing over the course of the first four months of school this year is a steady increase in student absences, especially in early years,” said Michalik.

“What’s at stake is relationship, community, belonging and all of those are necessary ingredients to success at school — to learn and to grow — and to be well. So all of it’s at stake.”

With the holiday break starting in the next couple of days, he says it’s the perfect time to get students vaccinated against the flu.

“That’s what I wish for the holiday season. For more families getting vaccinated and as a result, a month of January, February and beyond that look different than what we’ve been experiencing this fall and early winter.”

Medical experts stress vaccination is critical to protecting younger children against serious illness, saying while an ebb and flow of illness have been expected during the winter months post-pandemic, they’re seeing sicker kids than normal.


“What is surprising is the acuity of the children and by acuity, meaning how sick they are including febrile seizures, including high fevers, including dehydration,” said Dr. Karen Gripp, medical director of the children’s hospital emergency department.

Due to the amount of illness circulating in the community, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority has logged an increase of fever-induced seizures. Data from the province indicates there have been 322 visits related to febrile seizures at HSC Children’s Hospital Emergency Department this year, compared to 117 in 2021.

“If you’re worried about your child, we’re worried with you to be honest. We don’t want you to hesitate to come to the emergency department if you think your child is seriously unwell and you’re worried that it’s an emergency.”

Dr. Gripp says the increase in febrile seizures is likely due to the fact there are a higher number of viral infections being recorded.

“Educate yourself about that, obviously you know your child the best, but also evaluate them in context of when to be really worried and when to be reassured and try comfort measures at home.”

Dr. Gripp stresses if a child is having a febrile seizure that lasts more than five minutes, or repeats, has issues breathing or is changing colour, 911 should be called.

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