While some proposed changes to Manitoba’s Public Schools Amendment Act will not have much of an impact on school divisions and families, other proposed changes are expected to make a much greater difference for some students. 

Chris Szun is the Assistant Superintendent of Instruction and Curriculum for the Seine River School Division. 

He addresses the legislation introduced this month by the Manitoba Government. 

“The portion of Bill 21, the Public Schools Amendment Act, that addresses and changes the right to attend school age from age six to age five, or the compulsory school age from seven to age six really just aligns with the current approach and practices in most of the school divisions and schools throughout Manitoba.” 

Szun believes the government is “looking to modernize certain aspects of that legislation to fall in line with current practice.” 

Another part of the proposed changes would remove barriers to students enrolling in schools in the area where they live. 

“I think that that is certainly different and apart from that other portion of the bill, but they are a little bit common in the sense that I think both are intended to remove and reduce barriers that students may currently be facing when they're looking at attending school,” Szun says. “So, the province has recognized, and we throughout education realize, that it's a disadvantage for any child not to be attending school.  

“And this change in legislation, I think, removes some of those barriers and makes the entrance for children to go into schools a little bit more seamless and cuts out some of the red tape they currently might be experiencing. And we're talking about instances where, due to extenuating circumstances, living arrangements might change temporarily where a student is no longer residing with their legal guardian and begins to live with, or under the care of, a trusted adult.” 

Currently, there are some processes that need to be followed in such situations, like filling out a Schools of Choice registration, says Szun. 

"And there’s certain criteria that schools and divisions have to follow and there is the potential or possibility that a student might be declined entrance into that school,” he adds. 

The Schools of Choice initiative facilitates parental/student choice, within limits, in selecting the public school best suited to the student’s learning requirements. Only those students who qualify under “right to attend school” legislation may exercise choice. - www.edu.gov.mb.ca

If the proposed changes are approved, Szun says it would mean a much more seamless transition for students who are experiencing changes to their living situation and need to change schools, even if they are living with a trusted adult in a different school division. He says making official guardianship changes can often be time consuming, so this change would bring more ease in helping students attend school.