Tantalus Community School in Carmacks, Yukon, is pivoting to remote learning after the school council made the decision to cancel all in-person classes.
The community is currently dealing with 22 cases of COVID-19 and, according to Carmacks Mayor Lee Bodie, the current outbreak started with a few cases at the school.
The community's only school serves children from kindergarten to Grade 12 and is switching to remote learning for the duration of time that the Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation (LSCFN) and the Municipality of Carmacks are urging their citizens to remain in isolation.
The school council made the decision despite Yukon health officials' recommendation that schools stay open during the state of emergency.
"Most parents were keeping their kids home anyway," said Bodie. "I learned that even before we made the decision that there were no kids in school at all. So it's a moot point for us trying to close the school when even the kids won't go."
Government insists schools are safe
Ryan Sikkes, the assistant deputy minister of education with the Yukon government, insists that schools are safe.
"[The chief medical officer of health] continues to express to us that schools are safe," he said.
"There are not high level [of transmission]. In fact, there are very low levels of transmission of COVID taking place in schools."
With the exception of Tantalus Community School, all schools in the Yukon are offering in-person classes.
School councils are allowed to cancel face-to-face classes, but Sikkes said it is not a decision to be taken lightly, and there are other options to consider beforehand, such as a hybrid learning model.
"The Education Act gives school councils authority over programming in schools, and so this is one of the ways that they can exercise those authorities," said Sikkes.
"But before they go to zero per cent face-to-face learning or complete remote learning, there are some other options where some groups of students would be able to come to school, where others would continue to learn from home."
Sikkes said the Tantalus school council had discussions with LSCFN, the Department of Education, and representatives from the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health before making the decision to pivot to remote learning.
"It's really a decision that needs to be made on a case-by-case basis, depending on the public health situation and the operational requirements that need to be in place to continue a school operating face-to-face classes," said Sikkes.
He added that remote learning can negatively affect students' mental health.
In the meantime, Bodie is asking the public to avoid visiting Carmacks.