Colville Lake School closed this week due to COVID outbreak

The Colville Lake School in the Northwest Territories, pictured in January 2020. (John Last/CBC - image credit)
The Colville Lake School in the Northwest Territories, pictured in January 2020. (John Last/CBC - image credit)

The school in Colville Lake, N.W.T., has been closed all week and students have moved to remote learning after the majority of staff tested positive for COVID-19, according to a teacher at the school.

On Monday, a couple of teachers called in sick while more ended up testing positive for the illness, resulting in the local district education authority closing the school for the remainder of the week.

"I thought it was actually a good call by the DEA looking at our schedule and being a little proactive rather than reactive," Sheldon Snow, Colville Lake teacher told CBC.

Submitted by Sheldon Snow
Submitted by Sheldon Snow

The Sahtu Divisional Education Council confirmed the closure in an email. Students are expected back in-person on Nov. 15.

Superintendent Renee Closs wrote in an email that Colville Lake's district education authority passed a motion Monday to shift students to remote learning after staff members called in sick.

It was a precautionary measure, she wrote, and was also due to "operational requirements."

In the last two years, the community has seen a number of pandemic-related measures to keep the population safe — including a community-wide lockdown in August 2021 when more than half the population tested positive with COVID.

"Everyone here is pretty healthy as they live a traditional lifestyle of on-the-land, but we're worried about our most vulnerable in the community," Snow said.

"We don't have the infrastructure and everything that most other communities have, so it's not as simple as just going to see the nurse or going to see the doctor."

Learning packages sent home 

In the community of about 160 people, the school has approximately 50 students with five full-time teachers and three support staff.

School staff have become used to pivoting to online learning after two and a half years of pandemic-related health guidelines.

Snow said the teachers who did not test positive for COVID-19 had learning packages handed out to students by the next day.

"Our community is so small, we need to make sure we're taking care of each other because no one else is going to look out for our community except for our community itself," Snow said.

"We'll just deal with it as it comes and do the best that we can to keep everyone safe."