Strike up the school bands, choirs again

·2 min read

The province has lifted COVID-19 restrictions that prohibit students from singing or playing wind instruments in Manitoba schools.

Manitoba Education issued a bulletin Friday outlining parameters for a safe resumption of indoor music classes and related extracurriculars.

Choir and band practices can continue if the total number of masked staff and students involved does not exceed 25 people, instruments are cleaned regularly, and there is a minimum distance of two metres — taking into account the length of instruments — between performers.

“If adequate distancing is not possible, the use of Plexiglas or other barriers should be considered and these barriers should be cleaned and disinfected after each practice,” states the bulletin created in collaboration with the Manitoba Music Educators’ Association and the Association of Music Administrators of Manitoba.

Mandatory rules aside, the sharing of wind and brass instruments, as well as music stands and sheets, is discouraged.

Students are also encouraged to empty spit valves when no one else is present and teachers are asked to arrange performers in staggered lines and so they are facing slightly away from each other, if possible.

Members of the Manitoba band parent advocacy lobby group celebrated the “win” Friday.

“We are so happy that the province has been receptive to our concerns and has realized that band can happen safely, once the proper mitigations are in place,” said Maureen Fitzhenry, whose son plays the tuba at Oak Park High School.

As Fitzhenry described her Grade 12 son’s excitement about learning he will be able to reunite with his bandmates, she teared up.

The province recommends educators ensure the air exchange system in their music rooms is functioning properly before activities start up again.

Concerts and public performances remain off-limits for the time being.

Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press